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DIPLOMACY >Turkey seeks cooperation with Russia, US on Syria to leave differences aside: Turkish FM

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Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has said he hopes U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Moscow will focus on the future of Syria rather than Washington and Moscow’s own narrow interests, noting that Turkey wants to continue cooperation with Russia and the United States to resolve the Syrian crisis despite some differences of opinion. 

In a televised interview on April 14, the minister said discussions between Tillerson and Russian politicians should focus on a “positive agenda” and the future of Syria while avoiding prioritizing their own agenda.

Çavuşoğlu said the Syrian issue was concerned not only with the U.S. and Russia, but also with all countries.

“Of course, the role of the U.S. and Russia is crucial to solving such a big problem, but Turkey has also become the most important actor in Syria today,” the minister said, stressing that Ankara wanted to continue its relations with all the countries for a solution in Syria by leaving differences of opinion on other issues aside.

Tillerson held his first direct talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on April 12. 

Apart from the Syrian crisis, Turkey also wishes to enhance its bilateral ties with Russia, the minister said, adding that Turkish ministers for the economy would visit Moscow later in April to discuss lifting restrictions on bilateral trade. 

Çavuşoğlu refuted claims that Moscow would restrict charter flights between Turkey and Russia, while adding that Ankara wanted to further cooperate with Russian authorities on health tourism in Turkey. 


Russia, Turkey agree to support OPCW investigation 

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the latest developments in Syria by phone on April 13 and agreed to support an investigation by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) into the use of chemical weapons in northern Syria.

The presidential office stated that the Turkish leader stressed that the use of chemical weapons “is the greatest crime against humanity.”

The two leaders underlined the significance of joint efforts by Ankara and Moscow to continue the Geneva and Astana peace talks and agreed to work together to sustain the Syria cease-fire. Putin and Erdoğan also agreed that the normalization of ties between their two countries should be accelerated, according to the statement.

A suspected gas attack in Khan Sheikhoun in northwest Syria on April 4 killed nearly 90 people. 

Russia subsequently demanded an examination by the OPCW in the area. A British delegation of the international chemical weapons watchdog said in a tweet that the organization’s director general has said its investigators are already testing samples and that the mission is expected to report its findings in three weeks.

The OPCW’s fact-finding missions investigates alleged attacks but does not apportion blame.

April/14/2017

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