Erdoğan, Putin reaffirm 'joint fight' in Syria's Idlib
MOSCOW - Anadolu Agency
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin held their first face-to-face meeting of 2019 on Jan. 23.
“Our joint fight against terrorist organizations in Syria's Idlib will continue,” Erdoğan said in a joint news conference in Moscow.
"It is critically important that a vacuum during the U.S. withdrawal [from Syria], which can be exploited by terrorists, doesn't form," Erdoğan went on to say.
“The U.S. will take measures on threatening regions, which is 30 km deep [in Syria]. We are on the same page with Russia on this topic,” he added.
He said Turkish ministers and officials have held negotiations on safe zone in northern Syria, adding: “sensitivity of the regions that threaten us is of great importance.”
Erdoğan said that more than 300,000 Syrians returned back to 4,000 square kilometer area in northern Syria following the Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations, adding: "This (safe zone) model that helps people return should also be applied in the region east of the Euphrates."
Before the joint press conference, two leaders greeted each other warmly.
"Dear Mr. President, very glad to see you in Moscow. We continue our practice of regular meetings, consultations, exchange of views. I would like to note that this gives positive results," Putin said while greeting Erdoğan.
He noted that in 10 months of 2018, the Russian-Turkish trade turnover increased more than all of the previous year.
He also said that the growth in the number of Russian tourists -- which increased by 30 percent last year, reaching a record figure of 6 million people -- shows how the citizens of their countries "perceive the change in the nature and quality of Russian-Turkish relations".
"Mr. President dear friend, this is largely your merit and your personal achievement because you devote a lot of time to it," he said.
Erdoğan, for his part, stressed that developments on tourism help Turkish and Russian people socialize.
"Our commercial relations are also on the rise ... we have set a big goal between us -- to reach the $100 billion trade volume," Erdoğan said.
On bilateral projects, Putin said they "are being implemented, everything is going according to plan."
"And of course, we are actively cooperating on regional security issues in Syria," Putin said.
Putin also expressed his condolences to Erdoğan over the death of 16 Turkish citizens, who were killed in a twin vessel fire in the Kerch Strait on Monday.
Erdoğan in return conveyed condolences for the deceased Russian citizens in the incident.
The vessels, which together were carrying 31 sailors -- including 16 Turkish citizens -- at the time of accident, had been sailing under the Tanzanian flag.
The Kerch Strait links the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov.
Putin said the incident had happened in neutral waters as one of the vessels was transferring its cargo of liquified gas to the other.
"Our services reacted quickly -- did everything to save the people. But it is still a great tragedy for the families, for the victims. Please accept our condolences," he said.
Putin also praised the development of Russian-Turkish cooperation in 2018 and said the trade turnover between the two countries shows further growth.