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Erdoğan tells Putin Syria safe zone is ‘imperative’

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Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Monday it was essential to create a “safe zone” inside Syria near the Turkish border, Agence France-Presse reported, citing Erdoğan’s office.

Under a 2019 agreement, Russia and Turkey agreed Russian military police and Syrian border guards would start driving a Syrian Kurdish militia 30 kilometers (19 miles) away from the Turkish border.

Ankara views the militia as a terrorist organization.

Erdoğan told Putin in a phone call that “a terror-free zone with a depth of 30 kilometers from the Turkish border… was not established, and that it’s imperative to make these areas secure,” according to the Turkish presidency.

He pointed to the Kurdish militants’ “continued attacks” aimed at Turkey.

Erdoğan said last week Turkey would soon launch a new military operation into northern Syria to create a “safe zone” along the border.

The United States has warned against launching a new operation, saying the uneasy NATO ally would be putting US troops at risk.

Turkey has launched three offensives into Syria since 2016 aimed at crushing Syrian Kurdish fighters who assisted the US-led campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Ankara alleges these fighters are allied with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a war against the Turkish state since 1984 and is listed as a terror group by the European Union and the United States.

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