Turkish, Russian presidents discuss Syria, bilateral ties

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin have discussed Syria and bilateral relations over the phone, Turkey’s presidential office said.

Both leaders confirmed their commitment to the “Sochi deal” reached on Oct. 22 between Ankara and Moscow for the withdrawal of Syrian Kurdish fighters from the areas along the Turkish border in northern Syria.

Erdogan and Putin also discussed steps to be taken for developing bilateral relations and increasing bilateral trade volume, said the presidency.

Following the U.S. pullout of its troops from northern Syria, Turkish armed forces launched an incursion into Syria on Oct. 9 in a bid to drive Kurdish fighters out of the area to establish a safe zone along the Turkey-Syria border.

Under the U.S.-Turkey deal reached on Oct. 17 on a five-day truce, Turkey agreed to halt its military operation to pave the way for the withdrawal of People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters from the safe zone.

Turkey and Russia later agreed to give the YPG fighters 150 hours to withdraw 30 km away from the Turkish border area and Turkish and Russian security forces started to conduct joint patrols there.

However, Ankara is critical for both the U.S. and Russia of not fulfilling the requirements of the deal, saying that Syrian Kurdish fighters have not fully retreated, and even attacked the Turkish army and Turkey-backed rebels.

The YPG is seen by Ankara as the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Turkey.