The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin about plans for a Turkish military operation in northern Syria, as well as about the war in UkraineErdogan’s office reported on Monday.
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Erdogan has said in recent days that Turkey will launch a cross-border incursion against Kurdish fighters in Syria with the aim of creating a 30-kilometre (19-mile) buffer zone. During the phone conversation he told Putin that the zone was agreed in 2019 but has not been implemented, according to the Turkish presidential office.
Ankara carried out an operation against the People’s Protection Units (YPG by its initials in Kurdish) in October 2019. Russia, the Syrian regime and the United States also have troops in the border region.
Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist group linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency against Turkey since 1984, resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of people.
However, the YPG form the backbone of US-led troops fighting the Islamic State group in Syria. Washington has not liked Turkey’s previous incursions into Syria.
Erdogan also told Putin that Turkey is ready to resume a role in ending the war in Ukraine, including participating in a possible “observation mechanism” between Ukraine, Russia and the United Nations, the statement said.
Negotiations in Istanbul last March failed to make much progress, but Turkey, which has close ties to both kyiv and Moscow, has repeatedly put itself forward as a potential mediator.
Erdogan also called for peace in Ukraine as soon as possible and for confidence-building measures to be taken.
In Washington, the National Security Council noted that national security adviser Jake Sullivan called Ibrahim Kalin, Erdogan’s top adviser, by phone to discuss both nations’ support for Ukraine, but also to express caution about actions in Syria.
Sullivan “reiterated the importance of refraining from escalation in Syria to preserve existing truces and prevent further destabilization,” said Adrienne Watson, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council.