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Syrian conflict

Turkey’s Erdogan says de-escalation plan would ‘half solve’ Syria conflict

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 May, 2017, 11:08pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 May, 2017, 11:08pm

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said a Moscow-backed plan to set up so-called de-escalation zones inside Syria would “50 per cent” solve the conflict.

Erdogan said he had discussed with Russian President Vladimir Putin a plan floated by Moscow for “de-escalation zones” to be set up in several areas in Syria.

Speaking to reporters on his plane flying back from the meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Erdogan said the zones would include Idlib, part of Aleppo and Homs provinces, part of Damascus and part of Daraa.

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“If this is implemented then 50 per cent of the Syrian issue can be solved,” he said in comments published yesterday evening on two Turkish news websites.

Turkey and Russia have been on opposing sides in the conflict, with Moscow supporting President Bashar al-Assad but Ankara pushing for his removal.

Relations reached a dangerous low in November 2015 when Turkish warplanes shot down a Russian fighter jet over Syria.

But a normalisation deal was reached last year and the two sides have been working closely in a joint effort to end the war.

Yet tensions remain, and Erdogan said he had personally shown Putin at the talks a photograph of Russian forces in Syria with Kurdish militia that Ankara deems to be a terror group.

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He said Putin promised that Russian weapons were not ending up in the hands of the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) and vowed to investigate the picture.

Turkey and Russia have also championed peace talks taking place in the Kazakh capital Astana but these hit a snag on Tuesday when pro-Ankara Syrian rebels said they were suspending their participation after air strikes.

But Erdogan said the issue had been solved by Turkey’s powerful intelligence chief Hakan Fidan.

“The opposition were again satisfied to take part in the talks,” Erdogan said. “So Astana is going to continue.”