Turkey’s Erdogan calls on Putin to establish a Syrian corridor
ISTANBUL– Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a 30-kilometre (19-mile) security corridor on the Turkey-Syria border during a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Erdogan’s office said on Sunday. .
Referring to Kurdish militants whom Ankara regards as terrorists, Erdogan reiterated “the importance and urgency” of creating the corridor in northern Syria in accordance with a 2019 agreement between Turkey and Russia, adds the communicated.
The call came three weeks after Turkey launched air and artillery strikes in Syria and Iraq in response to a November 13 bomb attack in Istanbul that killed six people and injured dozens. The Turkish government blamed the attack on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and its Syrian affiliate, the People’s Protection Units, or YPG.
Both groups have denied any involvement in the attack.
The PKK led a 38-year insurgency against Turkey that left tens of thousands dead. It is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. The YPG, however, is not designated as a terrorist group by Washington or Brussels and has spearheaded the US-led fight against the Islamic State group in Syria.
Erdogan has threatened to continue his strikes in northern Syria with a ground offensive. A planned Turkish invasion earlier this year was halted by opposition from the United States and Russia, both of which have military posts in the region.
As part of a 2019 deal signed with Turkey, Russia promised to establish a buffer zone between Turkey’s border and YPG forces that would be policed by the Syrian army and Russian military police. The deal has not been fully implemented although Russian and Syrian government forces are present in the border region, as well as some US troops.
Moscow, which is Syrian President Bashar Assad’s main backer, has cooperated closely with Turkey in northern Syria in the past and in recent months has pushed for reconciliation between Ankara and Damascus.
The call between Erdogan and Putin follows a visit to Turkey this week by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin for talks on the situation in Syria.
In a reading of the appeal, the Kremlin said “close contacts” would be maintained between the Russian and Turkish defense and foreign ministries.
The presidents also discussed energy – Russia has proposed making Turkey a hub for the sale of its natural gas – as well as the UN-brokered deal with Turkey that protects the export of Ukrainian grain from its Black Sea ports.
Erdogan told Putin that the agreement could be gradually extended to “different food and other basic products”, his office added without providing further details.
Moscow said the deal “requires the removal of barriers to relevant supplies from Russia in order to meet the needs of countries that need them most.” Russia has complained that its own grain and fertilizer exports are hampered by sanctions against ships and banks.
Associated Press writer James Heintz in Moscow contributed to this report.