President Erdoğan speaks with leaders of Ukraine and Russia
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has discussed Ankara’s security concerns in northern Syria and the war in Ukraine with Russia’s Vladimir Putin on May 30 and stressed that it was essential to create a “safe zone” inside Syria near the Turkish border, Turkey’s presidency said.
Drawing attention to the PKK/YPG terrorist organization’s continued attacks in Syria against Turkey and Syrian civilians, President Erdoğan told Putin that the terror-free zone with a depth of 30 kilometers from the Turkish border, as had been stated in the memorandum of understanding of October 2019, was not established and that it was “imperative to make these areas secure.”
Under a 2019 agreement, Russia and Turkey agreed that Russian military police and Syrian border guards would start driving the YPG members 30 kilometers (19 miles) away from the Turkish border.
The president said last week, Turkey would soon launch a new military operation into northern Syria to create a “safe zone” along the border.
Erdoğan also told Putin that steps were needed that would minimize the negative effects of the war and build trust by restoring, as soon as possible, the ground for peace between Russia and Ukraine.
He said that Turkey was ready to resume a role in ending the war in Ukraine, including taking part in a possible “observation mechanism’’ between Ukraine, Russia and the United Nations, the statement said.
The Turkish president also called for peace in Ukraine as soon as possible and for confidence-building steps to be taken.
The Kremlin said Putin has discussed the situation in Ukraine on the phone with the Turkish leader, among other things.
According to the Kremlin’s readout of the Monday call, “the emphasis was placed on the issues of ensuring safe navigation in the Black and Azov Seas, eliminating the mine threat in their waters.’’
The readout said Putin “noted the readiness of the Russian side to facilitate the unimpeded maritime transit of goods in coordination with Turkish partners.’’ It stated, “This also applies to the export of grain from Ukrainian ports.’’
Ukraine has accused Russia of looting grain and farm equipment from regions its troops hold in Ukraine and of obstructing Ukraine’s exports of grain.
The Kremlin said Putin “confirmed’’ to Erdogan that Russia can export “significant amounts of fertilizers and agricultural products’’ if sanctions against it are lifted.
Moscow has pressed the West to lift sanctions against it over the war in Ukraine, seeking to shift the blame for a growing food crisis worsened by Kyiv’s inability to ship grain while under attack. Britain has accused Russia of “trying to hold the world to ransom,’’ insisting there would be no sanctions relief.
Following his discussion with Putin, Erdoğan on May 30 also talked with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky on the issue of creating a safe corridor for the export of Ukraine’s agricultural products by sea.
The president told Putin that Turkey has thus far made every effort for the continuation of negotiations between Ukraine and Russia and stood ready from now on to provide any help needed, including mediation, said the Turkish presidency.
Erdoğan stressed that he attached special importance to the project of establishing a safe corridor for the exportation of Ukrainian agricultural products by sea.
He further noted that Turkey looked with favor, in principle, on joining the Control Center to be formed with the participation of the United Nations as well as the parties, and hosting the center in Istanbul.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu elaborated on the possible operation in northern Syria and said, “We will not be tied while the attacks continue.”
“We have rights stemming from the United Nations (UN) and international law… It is our duty to clear the terrorist threat at home and abroad, in Syria, wherever it may be,” Çavuşoğlu told the Anadolu Agency.
Speaking in the UAE, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar stated that Turkey will not accept the presence of terrorists in its south.
“The Turkish Armed Forces are ready to perform any task with its personnel, weapons and equipment, and with its superior morale, motivation and experience. It is determined and capable in this regard,” he said.