First Published: 2017-09-25

Putin to visit Erdogan this week for Syria, Iraq talks
Leaders set to discuss Syria peace plan, Iraqi-Kurdish referendum during Putin’s one-day working trip to Ankara this Thursday.
Middle East Online

Russia, Turkey on opposite sides of Syria civil war despite warm relations

ANKARA - Russian President Vladimir Putin will this week visit Ankara for talks with Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan set to touch on Iraq and Syria, both sides announced on Monday.

Putin will make a one-day working trip to Ankara on Thursday, the Kremlin and the Turkish presidency said, following a telephone call between the two men.

Ankara and Moscow have been on opposing sides of the over six year civil war in Syria, with Russia the key backer of President Bashar al-Assad and Turkey backing rebels seeking his ouster.

But while Turkey's policy is officially unchanged, it has been working closely with Russia since the end of 2016 to bring peace to Syria and has cooled its attacks on the Damascus regime.

The Kremlin said that Erdogan and Putin emphasised that the implementation of a plan for four "deescalation zones in Syria" would open the way to an end to the civil war and the creation of a political settlement.

Turkish presidential sources said that Erdogan and Putin also discussed Monday's non-binding independence referendum in Iraq's northern Kurdistan region.

They both stressed the importance of preserving the territorial integrity of both Iraq and Syria, the sources said.

Turkey is a leading opponent of the poll in northern Iraq, fearing the vote could stoke separatist aspirations among its own sizeable Kurdish minority.

But Russia has so far not come out explicitly against the referendum, emphasising the importance of preserving Iraq's territorial integrity.

Ankara and Moscow went through their worst crisis in ties since the end of the Cold War when the Turkish air force shot down a Russian war plane over Syria in November 2015.

But relations warmed rapidly following a reconciliation deal in 2016, and Erdogan and Putin have repeatedly met since.


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