MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Recip Erdogan on Thursday agreed to bolster military coordination in Syria, the Kremlin said, after a Russian strike killed three Turkish soldiers.
“Putin expressed condolences over the tragic incident that caused the death of several Turkish servicemen in the area of the town of Al-Bab,” the Kremlin said after the two leaders spoke by phone.
“It was agreed to enhance military coordination in the course of the operation in Syria against Islamic State fighters and other extremist organisations,” the statement said.
The Kremlin statement — which came before Turkey announced the deadly incident — did not mention explicitly that Russian firepower was to blame.
But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed the Russian strike took place on Thursday morning and said that it was due to a “lack of agreement of coordinates during strikes by the Russian airforce.”
Russia’s defence ministry said that Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov also called his Turkish counterpart to offer condolences over the “accidental” strike by a Russian jet.
“Russian jets were carrying out a military mission to destroy IS positions in the area of Al-Bab,” a defence ministry statement said.
The two military chiefs “agreed on closer coordination of joint actions and also the exchange of information about the situation on the ground,” it said.
Russia and Turkey have joined forces against the Islamic State group around Al-Bab, where Ankara’s forces are fighting the jihadists on the ground.
Moscow has been flying a bombing campaign in Syria in support of the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since 2015.
Ankara and Moscow had a ferocious falling-out after a Turkish jet shot down a Russian plane on the Syrian border in November 2015, but they have since mended ties and begun cooperation over Syria.