ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a 30-km security corridor on Turkiye’s border with Syria in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Erdogan’s office said on Sunday.
Referring to Kurdish militants that Ankara considers terrorists, Erdogan reiterated the “importance and urgency” of creating the corridor in northern Syria in accordance with a 2019 agreement between Turkiye and Russia, the statement added.
The call came three weeks after Turkiye launched air and artillery strikes in Syria and Iraq in response to a bomb attack in Istanbul on Nov. 13 that killed six people and wounded dozens. The Turkish government has blamed the bombing on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and its Syrian affiliate the People’s Protection Units, or YPG.
Both groups have denied involvement in the attack.
The PKK has waged a 38-year insurgency against Turkiye that has led to the loss of tens of thousands of lives.
It is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkiye, the US and the EU.
The YPG, however, is not designated as a terror group by Washington or Brussels and has spearheaded the US-led fight against Daesh in Syria.
Erdogan has threatened to follow up strikes on northern Syria with a ground offensive.
A planned Turkish invasion earlier this year was halted amid opposition by the US and Russia, both of which have military posts in the region.
Under a 2019 deal signed with Turkiye, Russia promised to establish a buffer zone between the Turkish border and YPG forces that would be controlled by the Syrian army and Russian military police.
The agreement was not fully implemented although both Russian and Syrian government forces are present in the border region, as well as some US troops.
Moscow, which is the main backer of Syrian leader Bashar Assad, has closely cooperated with Turkiye in northern Syria in the past and in recent months has pushed for reconciliation between Ankara and Damascus.
The call between Erdogan and Putin follows a visit to Turkiye this week by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin for talks on the situation in Syria.
In a readout of the call, the Kremlin said “close contacts” would be maintained between the Russian and Turkish defense and foreign ministries.