Russia’s Special Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev has said a delegation from Turkey has given assurances to Russia that Turkish military forces in Syria will be withdrawn at the first opportunity, the Sputnik Turkish website reported on Wednesday.
Lavrentiev’s remarks came at a news conference in the Kazakh capital of Nur-Sultan, where delegations from Turkey, Russia and Iran met on Tuesday for the 17th meeting of the Astana peace process, which aims to find a solution to the decade-long crisis in Syria.
Lavrentiev said their Turkish partners constantly talk about the importance of Syria’s territorial integrity, unity and independence and say the Turkish forces will leave the country when the circumstances allow them to do so.
Lavrentiev also said Russia offered to help Turkey deal with terrorists in Idlib and reduce the tension there and that Turkey was considering their offer.
Turkey and its proxies have seized control of territory inside Syria over several military operations launched since 2016 against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the People’s Protection Units (YPG).
Ankara views the YPG as the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging a deadly war against the Turkish state that has claimed tens of thousands of lives since 1984.
Turkey’s parliament in October extended the military’s mandate to launch cross-border operations in Syria and Iraq by two more years.
Turkey, which has backed some rebels fighting to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, currently hosts more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly called for Assad to step down, even while Iran, Russia and Turkey have said they seek a political solution to the conflict. Ankara and Moscow back opposing sides in the conflict.
Bilateral and trilateral meetings are being held within the scope of the Astana talks.
The Turkish delegation is headed by Ambassador Selçuk Ünal, the foreign ministry’s Syria director-general, while Russia is represented by Lavrentiev and Iran by Ali Asgar Haji, a senior adviser to the Iranian foreign minister on special political affairs.