Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan during a meeting in Sochi in a file photo. Image Credit: REUTERS

Istanbul: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to agree on a solution with Western powers that could keep humanitarian aid flowing into Syria.

Erdogan’s appeal came as diplomats at the United Nations scrambled to find a solution to preserve a system that has allowed aid to reach the war-ravaged country via Turkey since 2014.

“Erdogan emphasised that he attaches importance to the extension of the cross-border mechanism in Syria,” his office said in a statement issued after telephone talks following the expiry on Sunday of the mechanism.

The Kremlin made no mention of the Syria crossing in its readout of the call.

But it said the two leaders discussed preparations for a summit to be held “in the near future”.

Erdogan has been offering to meet Putin for months in a bid to help resolve global tensions that have reached historic highs since the war began.

The Turkish-Syria border at the Bab Al Hawa crossing is the only way UN assistance can reach civilians without navigating areas controlled by Syrian government forces.

Russia used its veto power on the UN Security Council to strike down a Western proposal to keep the border crossing open for another year.

Western powers are resisting a Russian counter offer to extend the mechanism for only six more months - with the possibility of renewal in January.

The Security Council has previously issued extensions after the mechanism had already expired.

Ukraine grain corridors

Diplomatic sources said that a new vote appeared unlikely because of continuing disagreements about the extension’s length.

Some remained hopeful that a vote could come on Tuesday or later in the week.

The Kremlin made no mention of the UN discussions and instead stressed the importance of the so-called “Astana process” for peace in Syria that besides Russia and Turkey also involves Iran.

Erdogan has tried to leverage his good working relations with both Putin and Western-backed leaders in Kyiv to calm tensions.

His office said Erdogan also urged Putin to “take action” on a UN proposal for resuming stalled Ukrainian grain exports across the Black Sea.

The UN has submitted a plan that would see safe corridors set up around known mines.

The proposal has gained only limited support in both Moscow and Kyiv.

Ukraine has accused Russia of stealing its grain and contributing to a global food shortage caused by grain exports blocked in its ports.

But Russia claims to have “nationalised” Ukrainian state assets and to be buying crops from local farmers.

The Kremlin signalled no clear progress on grain.

Putin and Erdogan “exchanged views on the situation around Ukraine, including in the context of efforts to ensure the security of Black Sea marine traffic and the export of grain to world markets,” the Kremlin said.