BFF-68 Erdogan says to discuss Syria flashpoints with Putin

ZCZC

BFF-68

SYRIA-CONFLICT-TURKEY

Erdogan says to discuss Syria flashpoints with Putin

ANKARA, July 25, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
said on Wednesday he would discuss Syria conflict flashpoints, in particular
the situation in Daraa in the south and Idlib to the north, with Russian
counterpart Vladimir Putin in South Africa this week.

Syrian government forces launched an offensive last month backed by
Russian planes to retake Daraa province in the south while the northwestern
province of Idlib remains under jihadist and rebel control but at risk of a
regime assault.

The Kremlin said Erdogan was due to meet Putin on Thursday on the
sidelines of the annual BRICS summit of leading emerging economies Brazil,
Russia, India, China and South Africa which the Turkish leader is also
attending.

“There is the issue of Daraa, the most problematic. We will put this issue
on our agenda again,” Erdogan told reporters at Ankara airport before he
boarded the plane for Johannesburg, adding that Idlib would also be
discussed.

“Because anything can happen in these places at any moment.”

Although Russia provides military support to Syrian President Bashar al-
Assad and Turkey still calls for his ouster, Moscow and Ankara have been
working closely on finding a peaceful solution to the Syrian conflict.

Alongside Iran, Russia and Turkey have held talks under the Astana peace
process launched last year and agreed to create four “de-escalation” zones to
pave the way for a nationwide ceasefire. One of the zones is Idlib.

The war has killed more than 350,000 people since it began in 2011 with a
brutal government crackdown on protesters.

Turkey launched a military operation in northern Syria against the Islamic
State extremist group in 2016, retaking areas such as Al-Bab and Jarabulus.

Then in January this year, Turkish forces supporting Syrian rebels
launched an offensive against the western enclave of Afrin, held by the
Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia. Afrin was captured in
March.

Ankara says the YPG is linked to outlawed Kurdish insurgents inside
Turkey.

“The developments in Syria — whether Tal Rifaat or Manbij — are not yet
going in the desired direction,” Erdogan said, without giving details.

Manbij was held by the YPG but its fighters are now said to have withdrawn
to avoid clashes with Turkey. Ankara was also troubled by the situation in
the Syrian city of Tal Rifaat but Russia provided assurances the YPG were no
longer present.

BSS/AFP/FI/ 1726 hrs