Erdogan, Putin Discuss Northeast Syria as Turkish, Regime Troops Clash
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russia's Vladimir Putin discussed Turkey's military offensive in Syria in a phone call on Saturday, Turkey's presidency said.
Turkey launched its cross-border offensive one month ago, saying it aimed to drive Kurdish-led forces from the border region and create a "safe zone" to settle Syrian refugees.
It halted its advance under a deal with the United States which called for the withdrawal from the border of Kurdish People’s Protections Units (YPG) fighters - whom Ankara considers to be terrorists because of their links to Kurdish guerrillas waging an insurgency inside Turkey.
Erdogan later agreed a separate deal with Moscow, which also called for the YPG to withdraw at least 30 km (nearly 20 miles) from the border, but has since said that neither Washington nor Moscow has been able to deliver on the deals.
The Turkish statement on Saturday said Erdogan and Putin confirmed their commitment to the accord they struck at a meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi which also paved the way for joint Russian-Turkish military patrols inside Syria.
It said the two men also discussed bilateral trade, but gave no further details.
The Turkish president is due to hold talks with US President Donald Trump in Washington on Wednesday.
On the ground, intense clashes broke between Syrian regime troops and Turkish-led forces in northeast Syria, the country's state media and an opposition war monitor reported.
Several people were injured, including a cameraman for state-run Syrian TV, according to both SANA and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Observatory and Kurdish news agency Hawar said a Syrian major general and a colonel were also wounded.
SANA said the clashes Saturday involved heavy machine gun fire and occurred in the village of Um Shaifa near the town of Ras al-Ain, which was captured by Turkish-led forces troops last month.
The Observatory said regime forces withdrew from several areas including Um Shaifa, leaving Kurdish fighters alone to face the attacks, which also involved Turkish drones.
Syrian state TV said one of its cameramen was wounded in the fighting, while the Observatory said several were wounded including a paramedic.
Turkey's Defense Ministry said Saturday it had recorded eight violations or attacks carried out by Syrian Kurdish fighters in the last 24 hours, despite separate ceasefire agreements that Turkey has reached with Russia and the United States. The ministry said on its Twitter account that the Syrian Kurdish fighters attacked with mortars, rockets and sniper fire, without saying where the attacks had occurred.
The ministry gave no mention of fighting with regime troops.
Last week, Turkish forces captured 18 regime forces in the area and set them free hours later following mediation by Russia.