Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday that his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin asked him to cooperate with Bashar al-Assad’s regime to resolve the Syrian crisis.
He assured Putin that the Turkish intelligence service is cooperating with the Syrian intelligence in this regard, but what is important is the outcome of this coordination.
“As long as the two intelligence services are working on the matter, we need Russia’s support, and there are agreements and understandings between the two countries in this regard.”
Erdogan made the remarks from the plane on his way back to Turkey, a day after the two leaders met at the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.
The meeting reaffirmed the divergence of positions between the two sides and underscored Moscow’s rejection of a possible Turkish military operation in northern Syria.
Erdogan said Putin adheres to a “fair approach” to Turkey on the Syrian issue and supports Ankara in the fight against terrorism.
The Turkish leader said he discussed with his Russian counterpart the possibility of carrying out a cross-border operation in Syria.
He pointed to their discussion on steps to be taken against terrorist organizations in Syria and agreed to take necessary actions to protect the country’s territorial integrity.
“We agreed on the decision to grant Turkey the right to respond to attacks on its security forces and squadrons of killers who attack civilian citizens,” Erdogan stressed.
In a statement issued after the talks that lasted four hours, Putin and Erdogan underlined the “key importance of sincere, frank and trusting ties between Russia and Turkey for regional and global stability.”
Since May, Erdogan has been talking about Turkey’s plans to launch a new military operation in Syria against the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in an effort to link up two areas already under Turkish control in the northern region near the Turkish border.
Erdogan said the aim is to create a 30-km safe zone along the Turkish border with Syria.
Ankara sees the YPG as the Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US, and the EU. The PKK has been rebelling against the Turkish government for over 30 years.
However, the United States and European countries rejected such step, and so did Russia and Iran, which support the Syrian regime.