Ankara, Moscow eye clearing Idlib, Syria of terrorism


Turkey’s president said Monday that Turkey and Russia both want to eliminate terrorists from Idlib, a region in northwestern Syria near Turkish borders.

“Ankara will never allow [the presence of] an entity that poses a threat to Turkish and Syrian territorial integrity,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a joint news conference with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin.

Ankara continues to take measures on Idlib since it is a “sensitive” issue for Turkey, Erdogan said.

“On the basis of our common understanding with Russia, we are determined to dismantle the terrorism from Syria that threatens our national security,.”

He stressed that Idlib must be completely cleared of terrorism for people to return safely to their homes.

“To date we have taken the steps we should take in Idlib, and we will continue to do so. Because retreat is impossible.”

Erdogan also said that both countries are determined to eliminate the terror threats near Turkey’s borders, adding that the terrorist groups PKK and the YPG — its Syrian branch — pose a threat like Daesh.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU — has been responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people, including women and children. The PYD/YPG is its Syrian branch.

Turkey and Russia’s “intense contacts and sincere dialogue have had a positive impact on our bilateral relations,” Erdogan said.

Stressing the importance of defense industry cooperation with Russia, Erdogan said Turkey has taken steps on this, adding that he expects a shift to trade using local currencies as soon as possible.

On Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 missile defense systems, Erdogan said that no one expects Ankara to renege on the deal, which is its national right.

“If we made a deal, then that’s it,” he said.

Putin, for his part, said that Turkish-Russian efforts in Idlib will finally lead to eliminating the terrorist threat there.

Calling the Idlib problem “pressing,” he added that a joint Russian-Turkish monitoring center will be established.

Stronger trade ties

Putin praised the talks in Moscow as “very successful” and helping to boost the development of Turkish-Russian ties.

He stressed the strengthening of cooperation between the two countries, adding that a Russian-Turkish investment fund created Monday will be able to attract at leas on in investments.

Putin said that Russia is doing its best to ensure economic independence for both countries, including trading in national currencies with Turkey.

He called Russian-Turkish cooperation in the energy domain “strategic” and promised to complete construction of the Akkuyu nuclear plant by 2023, the centenary of the Turkish Republic.

The TurkStream pipeline now under construction will let Turkey become a transit country for delivering Russian natural gas to Europe, he said.

Putin said he discussed with Erdogan the delivery of S-400 missile defense systems and other arms purchases, adding that Russia and Turkey will boost cooperation in arms.

He also said that Russian journalists will come to Turkey for an exchange program, which will contribute to stronger ties.

In another trade boost, Putin said that the visa requirement for Turkish truck drivers will be cancelled in the near future.

“Ankara and Moscow are willing to further enhance relations,” said President Erdogan, adding that the next high-level meeting with Russia will be hosted by Turkey.

The two leaders earlier Monday chaired the 8th meeting of the High-Level Cooperation Council following one-on-one talks at Kremlin.

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