Turkey’s Erdoğan starts round of talks with Putin in Moscow

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday began talks on Syria with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, Deutsche Welle English service reported.

“I believe this meeting will benefit the region, which is going through critical days,” Erdoğan said.

Putin expressed hope that the close ties between their countries would “facilitate solutions” for the Syrian conflict.

Before the meeting, Erdoğan warned Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia to withdraw from areas in Syria ahead of the expiry of a five-day US-brokered ceasefire.

The YPG militia was expected to initially withdraw from a 120-kilometer (75-mile) strip of the border with Turkey as part of the deal. The ceasefire ends at 10 p.m. local time (1900 UTC).

“Today is the last day for all terrorists in the region to leave,” said Erdoğan. Turkey wants to control a larger safe zone, extending along a 400-kilometer-long strip.

Speaking before his departure for the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Erdoğan said he would discuss the fate of towns in northeastern Syria that forces loyal to Damascus had entered.

The Kremlin said Putin was keen to find out more about Turkey’s plans. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov also said Moscow would study a “new idea” by German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer to create an internationally controlled security zone in northern Syria.

Ankara and Moscow say the talks are aimed at “normalizing the situation in Syria,” where — despite supporting opposing sides — the two have indicated that they share some common ground.

Turkey, which is allied with Turkmen and Arab rebel groups in Syria, launched a cross-border offensive earlier this month against Kurdish fighters it describes as “terrorists.”

Russia — the strongest military backer of the Syrian state under President Bashar al Assad — has traditionally opposed operations by other states in what it considers Syria’s sovereign territory.

However, both sides have said they support the idea of civilian safe zones in northern Syria, and Turkey has ruffled the feathers of NATO allies by purchasing a powerful Russian anti-aircraft system, the S-400.

Despite improving relations with Ankara, Moscow has expressed concern that Turkey’s incursion has helped jihadis who were in custody in Kurdish-controlled areas to escape. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Monday said there were concerns that battle-hardened terrorists could return to their homelands, including Russia.

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