Turkey welcomes Russia-US plan for Syria truce

Turkey welcomes Russia-US plan for Syria truce

Turkey welcomes Russia-US plan for Syria truce

Syrian refugees walk on their way back to the Syrian city of Jarablus at Turkey's Karkamış crossing gate. AFP photo

Turkey, which has sent dozens of tanks and hundreds of troops into Syria as part of the Euphrates Shield operation, on Sept. 10 welcomed a deal agreed by the United States and Russia for a cease-fire in its conflict-torn neighbor.

"We welcome the agreement," the foreign ministry said in a statement, saying it was essential that fighting was halted across Syria and humanitarian aid reaches those in need "from the first day" of the cease-fire on the Islamic Eid al-Adha holiday starting Sept. 12.

The statement said that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had "closely followed" the process to secure the cease-fire, following talks with Russian and U.S. counterparts Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama on the sidelines of the G20 in China.

It said Turkey was already making preparations for the delivery of humanitarian aid to northern Aleppo and would make efforts to "ensure the effective implementation" of the cease-fire.

Turkey and Russia have been on opposing sides of the conflict, with Ankara backing the opposition seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad and Moscow his key international supporter.

But there have been signs of greater harmony between Ankara and Moscow on Syria since a June deal to normalize their own ties following the crisis over the shooting down of a Russian war plane.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu spoke to Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov late Sept. 9 ahead of the announcement of the deal.

"They expressed mutual understanding of the importance of all parties concerned complying with the cessation of hostilities and the resumption of the inter-Syrian negotiation process," the Russian foreign ministry said.

The Russia-U.S. agreement came as Turkey presses on with its Euphrates Shield operation in Syria, which is aimed at pushing both Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Syrian Kurdish groups out of the Syrian border area.

Lavrov said the United States and Russia have agreed to carry out joint air strikes against "terrorists" in Syria if the cease-fire holds for a week.

Washington has applauded Turkey's actions against ISIL but is wary of its strikes on the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which is closely linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and is considered as a terrorist group by Turkey, but has been a U.S. ally in the fight against ISIL.