Turkey urges political solution in Syria

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Turkey is in efforts for a political solution to the “devastating” crisis in Syria, presidential communications director Fahrettin Altun has said on Twitter ahead of a crucial meeting between the Turkish and Russian leaders.

Turkey isn’t just fighting all forms of terrorism in Syria. We are also working for a political solution to the devastating crisis next door,” he said on Jan. 23.

“Syria’s territorial integrity and political stability are Turkey’s key priorities. We will continue to work toward those goals,” Altun added.

His remarks came after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan headed to the capital Moscow to meet with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

“President @RT_Erdogan will be in Moscow today to holds talks on regional issues, including the most recent developments in Syria, and the Turkish-Russian relations with President Putin,” Altun said.

The meeting comes at a crucial timing with regards to the U.S. withdrawal which followed a proposal for establishing a safe zone into northern Syria and amid significant developments in Idlib that constitutes risk to a deal on the rebel stronghold.

Erdoğan on Jan. 21 said he would discuss with Putin the creation of a Turkish-controlled “security zone” in northern Syria, suggested by U.S. President Donald Trump. Turkey will set up a safe zone 32 kilometers deep into northeastern Syria, Erdoğan said earlier, adding that the two sides’ teams will continue to discuss the technical aspects of the proposed measure along the Syrian border.

The YPG, which controls much of the north, have rejected the idea, fearing a Turkish offensive against territory under their control. The YPG have asked the Syrian regime for help to face a Turkish offensive. The Kremlin hailed the entry by Syrian forces into the key northern city of Manbij for the first time in six years after Kurds opened the gates.

Moscow, a long-term supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is likely to oppose the plan, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week saying Damascus must take control of the north.

Moscow plans to organize a three-way summit with Turkey and Iran at the beginning of this year as part of the Astana peace process, launched by the three countries in 2017. “So far, no date has been set but after negotiations with Erdoğan, we will begin preparations for the trilateral summit,” Putin’s foreign policy aide Yury Ushakov told reporters last week.

The issue of Idlib was expected to be another prominent topic in talks between the two leaders, which started after the Daily News went to print.

But in a separate briefing Wednesday, the Russian foreign ministry said the situation in the province remained a “serious concern.” “The situation in the [Idlib] de-escalation zone is rapidly deteriorating. The territory has in fact been taken under full control by militants,” said ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.

Ties between Russia and Turkey plunged to their lowest level in years in November 2015 when Turkish forces shot down a Russian warplane over Syria. But after a reconciliation deal in 2016, relations have recovered with remarkable speed, with Putin and Erdoğan cooperating closely over Syria, Turkey buying Russian-made air defense systems and Russia building Turkey’s first nuclear power plant.

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