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Northern Syria needs ‘cleansing’ of Kurdish forces: Erdogan tells Putin

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his Russian counterpart on Sunday that northern Syria should be “emptied” of Kurdish forces, during a phone call.

Turkish leader told Vladimir Putin ‘it is … a priority to clear the border of terrorists, which is at least 30 km deep’, referring to Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the north Syria, according to a statement from his office.

The two leaders also discussed grain supplies and a potential regional gas hub in Turkey, the two countries said.

The pair discussed “the problem” of resolving the Syrian conflict and how the terms of a 2019 deal between Russia and Turkey could be “fulfilled”.

Three years ago, Moscow and Ankara signed an agreement promising to create a buffer zone between the Turkish border and YPG forces that would be controlled by the Syrian army and Russian military police.

While Russian and Syrian forces are in the border region, the deal has not been fully implemented and Kurdish groups remain.

The two countries will pursue “close contacts” in the areas of defense and foreign policy, the Russian presidency said in its statement.

Erdogan has been threatening to launch a military operation in northern Syria against the YPG since November.

Turkey has launched air and artillery strikes in Syria and Iraq following an explosion in Istanbul on November 13 that killed six people and injured dozens more.

Ankara has accused the YPG and its affiliates the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) of being behind the November 13 bombing that killed six people in Istanbul.

Kurdish forces have denied any involvement. They usually only attack targets linked to the Turkish state.

A separate agreement on the creation of a buffer zone in northern Syria was reached between Ankara and Washington in 2019.

Turkey blames the United States, as well as Russia, for not respecting these agreements and allowing the YPG to remain in the north, which is home to most of Syria’s Kurdish population.

During the Syrian Civil War, the Kurds were able to carve out an autonomous state in northern and eastern Syria, longing for more political autonomy.

Kurdish troops have led the fight against Islamic State, working alongside international forces to drive the jihadist group from its Syrian strongholds.

Moscow and Washington oppose a possible Turkish ground incursion into northern Syria.

euronews Gt

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