Russian army chief in Syria meets Kurds over Turkey tensions
Ankara has urged its ally Syria’s Russian army chief to return to the Syrian border to discuss “the latest developments” in the war against Turkey.
The message was delivered by Russian President Vladimir Putin during a visit to Ankara on Jan. 26. He went to a Russian air base on Jan. 23 for a two-day visit to the country.
The message came a day after the Russian defense ministry’s spokesman said Russia was “not planning to escalate” the situation in Syria in response to the Turkish invasion.
Putin and his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan spoke by phone on Jan. 24 after the two met for hours on Dec. 31 on the sidelines of talks in the Iraqi capital Baghdad.
During the meeting, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan asked the Russian leader to “return to the Syrian border with a small number of your troops, so you can discuss the latest developments in this country and avoid any further escalation,” according to the Kremlin’s translation of the original Turkish text.
The Turkish leader has also said he hoped that Russia will send to Syria Russian personnel, and not troops, after Russia’s intervention in the Syrian war.
Moscow and Ankara began their dispute over Russia’s annexation of Crimea last year after a short war over the country’s territory and the Turkish offensive in Syria in September 2016.
The Turkish army has fought two major offensives inside Syria, Operation Euphrates Shield and Operation Olive Branch.
Russia in turn has backed Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, providing an estimated 50 percent of the country’s arms and supplies.
The Syrian army, backed by Russia, also has been fighting a powerful Islamic State group in eastern parts of Syria. With the group’s capture of areas in the north of the country, Syria’s future could be more uncertain than ever.
“I hope you’ll decide on your course while you’re still in Syria or when you return home,” said Erdogan.
Syria’s Foreign Ministry said the Russian leader’s visit to the border failed to restore calm.
“The Russian minister of defense who has just visited the border area did not convince the Syrian government to halt armed violence,” the statement said. “We urge him to