Turkey, Syria, Russia to hold new talks on civil war, terrorism

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Foreign ministers from Russia, Syria and Turkey will meet in the second half of January, after last week holding the highest-level gathering since the Syrian civil war erupted in 2011.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said late on Saturday that he had a telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov to discuss the timing and venue of the next meeting, according to state-run news agency.

The stepped-up diplomacy comes after a recent rapprochement between Turkey and its southern neighbor.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and his Syrian counterpart Ali Mahmoud Abbas held talks in Moscow on Wednesday hosted by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

The Turkish and Syrian intelligence chiefs also took part.

The discussions focused on the civil war and collaboration against “all terrorist groups” in the Middle East state, Turkey said, in a thinly-veiled reference to Kurdish militias in Syria.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that the meeting focused on combating “extremist groups on Syrian territory”.

The meeting could be held in Moscow or in another country, Anadolu cited Cavusoglu as saying. The sides need to explore if there will be a higher-level meeting in future, he said.

Turkey has lately indicated that it was preparing to put aside hostilities with neighboring Syria, where Turkish officials fear the emergence of a budding Kurdish state backed by the US government.

Frustrated by Washington’s refusal to end military assistance to Kurdish militia in Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seeking to resolve the matter through other brokers in the conflict.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his military to intervene in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2015, helping to tip the balance in the civil war in favor of the regime.

Russian troops have continued to support Syria’s army, even as Putin and Erdogan have joined with Iran to try to broker an agreement to end the conflict.

For months, Erdogan has threatened to unleash a new military offensive to expand a Turkish buffer zone inside Syria and push the Kurdish YPG and PYD groups away from their shared border.

Those plans triggered criticism from the US, which said unilateral Turkish action would undermine operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group, carried out jointly with groups that include the YPG.

Turkey regards the YPG as an extension of the Kurdish separatist group PKK that it fights at home.

The US and the European Union both consider the PKK to be a terrorist organization, just as Turkey does.

 

SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES

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