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Turkey to continue cooperation with Russia and Iran on Syria — top diplomat

Ankara remains committed to Syria’s territorial integrity, the top diplomat said

ANKARA, December 29. /TASS/. Turkey intends to continue close cooperation with Russia and Iran in Syria, Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Saturday after negotiations in Moscow.

"Ankara and Moscow share the opinion that it is necessary to destroy all terrorist organizations in Syria. We will continue close cooperation with Russia and Iran on Syria and regional issues," Anadolu Agency quoted the foreign minister as saying.

Ankara remains committed to Syria’s territorial integrity and is ready to counter attempts to undermine it, he said. 

"As the guarantors of the Astana process, we are certainly committed to the territorial integrity and unity of Syria and are ready to deter any actions aimed at undermining these principles," the Turkish foreign minister said.

Cavusoglu added that Turkey and Russia had also discussed issues related to the fight against terrorism. "We confirmed our readiness and determination to continue the fight in order to liberate Syria from this scourge," he said. "Today, the defense and foreign ministers discussed the steps our countries have taken within the Astana process, as well as further steps in this direction," the Turkish top diplomat noted.

According to Cavusoglu, the meeting’s participants also touched upon the implementation of the Memorandum on setting up a demilitarized zone in Syria’s Idlib. "We considered the actions we will take to implement the memorandum and resolve issues that may emerge along the way," he said. "We believe that the document has made it possible to ensure stability, thus significantly contributing to efforts to advance the political process," he added.

The Turkish top diplomat also pointed out that the four ministers had exchanged views on the situation "surrounding the United States’ plans to withdraw troops from Syria." "We discussed ways to coordinate our joint efforts given the circumstances," Cavusoglu noted.

On December 19, US President Donald Trump ordered a full withdrawal of US troops from Syria. According to US officials, the troop pullout will take 60 to 100 days.

The agency reported that the Russian-Turkish negotiations in Russian capital lasted an hour and a half. The Turkish delegation was represented by Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu, Presidential Press Secretary Ibrahim Kalin, Minister of National Defense Hulusi Akar and Chief of the National Intelligence Organization Hakan Fidan. The Russian side was represented by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Presidential Aide Yuri Ushakov. The Russian and Turkish presidential representatives and foreign and defense ministers discussed the situation in northeastern Syria.

On December 12, the Turkish president reported the intention to start an operation in the coming days against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units and the Democratic Union, which Ankara considers to be the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River. Before that, Turkey already held two military operations on Syrian territory: Operation Euphrates Shield and Operation Olive Branch, as a result of which a buffer zone of security was created between the bordering cities of Azaz and Jarabulus, and the Afrin region, which is populated by Kurds, was occupied.

On December 19, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan stated that the Turkish Armed Forces ended the preparations for a possible operation in Syria. However, following the decision to start the withdrawal of US forces from Syria declared by US President Donald Trump on December 19, Ankara said that Washington’s move postponed the operation.