Erdogan, Putin discuss Syria border corridor, gas hub by phone

Turkey’s president reiterated the necessity of establishing a buffer zone in accordance with a 2019 agreement with Russia, his office says.

Erdogan and Putin
The two leaders have held frequent discussions over the years [File: Turkish presidential press/Handout via AFP]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has held a phone conversation with his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin, in which he called for a 30-kilometre (19-mile) security corridor at the Turkish border with Syria, according to his office.

The two leaders also discussed grain supplies and a potential regional gas hub in Turkey on Sunday, December 11, both countries said.

In a statement, Erdogan’s office reiterated the “importance and urgency” of creating a buffer zone in northern Syria in accordance with a 2019 agreement between Turkey and Russia, which is the main backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The call came three weeks after Turkey launched air and artillery strikes in Syria and Iraq following an explosion in Istanbul on November 13 that killed six people and wounded dozens of others. Ankara blamed the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its Syrian affiliate the People’s Protection Units, or YPG. Both groups, considered “terrorists” by Turkey, have denied involvement.

Under the 2019 deal signed with Turkey, Russia promised to establish a buffer zone between the Turkish border and YPG forces that would be controlled by the Syrian army and Russian military police. The agreement was not fully implemented although both Russian and Syrian government forces are present in the border region, as well as some United States troops.

Russia has closely cooperated with Turkey in northern Syria in the past and in recent months has pushed for reconciliation between Ankara and Damascus. In recent weeks, Turkey has threatened to follow up strikes on northern Syria with a ground offensive.

Turkey, meanwhile, has acted as a mediator with the United Nations on an agreement that guarantees grain exports from both war-hit Ukraine and Russia, two of the world’s biggest producers.

In the call, Erdogan said Ankara and Moscow could start work on exporting other food products and commodities through the Black Sea grain corridor, it added, without providing further details.

“President Erdogan expressed his sincere wish for the termination of the Russia-Ukraine war as soon as possible,” the Turkish presidency said on Sunday.

Russia has urged the UN to push Western countries to lift some sanctions imposed on it after it invaded Ukraine in February. It says lifting sanctions will ensure it can freely export its fertiliser and agricultural products – a part of the Black Sea grain deal that Moscow says has not been implemented.

“The deal is of complex character, which requires the removal of obstacles for the relevant supplies from Russia in order to meet the demands of the countries most in need,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

It added that Putin and Erdogan also discussed an initiative to create a base in Turkey for exports of Russian natural gas.

Putin proposed the idea in October as a means to redirect supplies from Russia’s Nord Stream pipelines to Europe, which were damaged in explosions in September. Erdogan has supported the concept.

“The special importance of joint energy projects, primarily in the gas industry, was emphasised,” the Kremlin said.

Alexei Miller, head of Russian energy giant Gazprom, held talks with Erdogan in Istanbul in the past week.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies