Russia closely watching US-Turkish security zone talks for Syria, says FM

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MOSCOW, RUSSIA - AUGUST 24: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (L) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (R) hold joint press conference after their meeting in Moscow, Russia on August 24, 2018. AFP PHOTO

Russia is keeping a close eye on the talks between the United States and Turkey on a security zone in northeastern Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday after talks with his visiting Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, the TASS news agency reported.

“We are keeping a close eye on the talks between the United States and Turkey on security at the Syrian-Turkish border. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who visited Russia last week and had talks with President Vladimir Putin, informed in detail about these talks, about the problems that so far defy resolution,” he said.

Russia recognizes the necessity of solutions that “would not make another serious regional problem out of the Kurdish issue,” Lavrov noted. “We want all the decisions taken in the context of the US-Turkey talks to respect the interests of Arab tribes that have been traditionally living on the territories that are now scene of development on the Euphrates’ east bank.”

According to the top Russian diplomat, Moscow would support only those solutions in Syria’s northeast that respect that country’s sovereignty. “We will support only those solutions that fully respect Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he stressed.

The Turkish and US military agreed on Aug. 7 to set up a joint operations center in Turkey. The first US military group arrived in the Turkish town of Urfa (Şanlıurfa), located some 50 kilometers from the Syrian border, on Aug. 12. The center has been established by the two countries in order to fulfill a plan of creating a buffer zone in northern Syria to accommodate Syrian refugees returning from Turkey, which sees that zone as a “safety belt” along its border. Ankara insists on exercising control over the would-be zone.

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