Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman says Turkey is in talks with Russia to coordinate troop movements around northern Syria to avoid any encounter with the Syrian military.

Syrian government forces and Turkish-backed opposition fighters are in a race to seize the town of al-Bab from the Islamic State group.

Turkish and Syrian forces have so far avoided direct conflict, despite hostile rhetoric between Erdogan and Syrian President Bashar Assad. The twin offensives put the two forces within 3 kilometers (2 miles) of one another, on opposite sides of al-Bab.

Erdogan's spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, spoke to Turkey's private NTV television in an interview aired Wednesday.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights meanwhile reported fighting between Turkish forces and IS militants on the outskirts of al-Bab.