BY DAILY SABAH
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday reiterated to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin the importance of the withdrawal of the PKK’s Syrian wing, the YPG, 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) south of its border with Syria in accordance with a 2019 deal.
Underlining that the PKK/YPG’s separatist activities in northern Syria and terrorist attacks targeting Türkiye continue, Erdoğan said that in line with the 2019 Sochi agreement, it is important to clear the border of terrorists to a depth of at least 30 kilometers.
Erdoğan and Putin discussed bilateral ties and regional issues, including the grain corridor and the fight against terrorism, over the phone.
Erdoğan relayed to the Russian president his sincere hope that the Moscow-Kyiv war will end “as soon as possible.” The Turkish president also said that they can start work on the export of different food products through the grain corridor.
The call comes after Turkish and Russian delegations held political consultations and addressed regional issues in Istanbul on Thursday and Friday, as Ankara reiterated its expectation that Moscow upholds its pledges regarding the withdrawal of PKK/YPG terrorists from the Syria-Türkiye border.
Delegations headed by Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal and his Russian counterpart Sergey Vershinin addressed bilateral ties, United Nations reform, the Black Sea grain export deal and regional issues such as Syria, Libya and Palestine, according to a Turkish Foreign Ministry statement.
During the talks, Önal noted the importance of maintaining Syria’s territorial integrity and political unity as well as the need to reach a political solution to the ongoing crisis.
Türkiye reiterated its determination to its counterterrorism efforts against the PKK/YPG and conveyed its expectation that Russia fulfills the provisions of the 2019 memorandum of understanding on PKK/YPG terrorists in Syria.
Last month, Türkiye launched Operation Claw-Sword in northern Iraq and Syria – a cross-border aerial campaign against the PKK/YPG terror group – which has illegal hideouts across the Iraqi and Syrian borders where they plan and sometimes execute attacks on Turkish soil.
The country’s air operation followed a PKK/YPG terrorist attack on Nov. 13 on Istanbul’s crowded İstiklal Street that killed six people and left 81 injured.
After the air operation was launched, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also signaled an impending ground operation to northern Iraq and northern Syria to eliminate the terrorist threat, adding, “This is not limited to just an air operation.”
The president specified northern Syria’s PKK/YPG-controlled Tal Rifaat, Manbij and Ain al-Arab (also known as Kobani) regions as possible targets to clear of terrorists.
Tal Rifaat lies 15 kilometers south of the border with Türkiye. The PKK/YPG controls the city and surrounding villages, and Russian troops are present in the area. The Syrian National Army (SNA) controls areas surrounding Tal Rifaat from the north, while Russian-backed Syrian troops control zones mostly to the south.
Russian troops are deployed in some PKK/YPG-controlled border areas of northern Syria following a 2019 agreement that sought to avert a previous Turkish operation threat.
Since 2016, Ankara has launched a trio of successful counterterrorism operations across its border in northern Syria to prevent the formation of a terror corridor and enable the peaceful settlement of residents: Euphrates Shield in 2016, Olive Branch in 2018 and Peace Spring in 2019.