Turkey’s Erdoğan, Saudi King Salman discuss Syria in telephone conversation

Turkey’s Erdoğan, Saudi King Salman discuss Syria in telephone conversation

Turkey’s Erdoğan, Saudi King Salman discuss Syria in telephone conversation

FILE - In this Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015 file photo, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan right, shakes hands with Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, left, prior to their meeting in Antalya, Turkey ahead of the upcoming G-20 summit. AP Photo

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Saudi Arabian King Salman spoke by phone late on Feb. 16, with both describing attacks by Russia and Syrian government forces north of Aleppo as “worrisome,” sources at Erdoğan’s office said. 

Saying there could be no solution to the Syrian conflict with President Bashar al-Assad remaining in power, the two leaders called for an end to strikes on civilians and the lifting of sieges, sources from the Turkish president’s office told the state-run Anadolu Agency. They said the attacks by Syrian government forces and Russia’s attacks to the north of Aleppo were making the humanitarian situation in the region worse. 

Erdoğan and Salman also discussed attacks by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the militia force of Syria’s Democratic Union Party (PYD), on the northern Syrian town of Azez, close to the Turkish border, and the shelling by the Turkish army in response. 

The sources, speaking anonymously, did not elaborate on whether the Turkish or Saudi side initiated the telephone conversation, which came at a time when Ankara has been publicly seeking support from allies for a joint ground operation into Syria. The sources also did not state whether the two leaders discussed the prospects of a possible ground operation.

However, speaking earlier on Feb. 16, Erdoğan said Russia and the Syrian government’s “brutal operation” in northern Syria, where their forces have advanced toward the Turkish border, was aimed at creating a corridor for Kurdish militia fighters. 

In remarks delivered at a joint press conference with visiting Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, Erdoğan condemned criticism from Turkey’s allies for its shelling of the YPG militia in Syria, saying the group and its PYD political wing were a creation of President Bashar al-Assad’s administration. 

“Right now Russia’s brutal operation, along with the Syrian regime targeting civilians, is underway. Such attacks ... aim to form a belt for the PYD and the ground element of that is being handled by the YPG,” Erdoğan said. 

“I would like to address our Western allies once again: the YPG and PYD are terrorist organizations and those who have helped them form such structures will not be forgiven by history,” he said.