Conditions to end Syria war in place, joint success with Turkey – Putin
The de-escalation zones “have de-facto created the necessary conditions for the end of the fratricidal war in Syria and the final defeat of terrorists as well as for the Syrian people’s return to normal life,” Putin said at the news conference in the capital of Turkey, Ankara.
He added that it was an “issue of crucial significance” not only for the Syrian people and the Middle East, but also for the whole world as it created the necessary climate for Syrian refugees to return home.
Erdogan also positively assessed the Syrian peace process by saying he is “happy” with the progress made at the talks in Astana. He added that these negotiations “strengthen peace.”
He said further that the Astana process guarantors, including Turkey and Russia, should now “focus even more on confidence building measures.”
Erdogan added that Moscow and Ankara are “committed to the political solution of the Syrian crisis.”
The Russian leader pointed out that the de-escalation process was “difficult" – both for parties to the Syrian conflict and the guarantors of the Astana peace process – but the sides managed to achieve progress despite all the obstacles.
The proposal to establish four de-escalation zones was signed by Russia, Iran and Turkey and approved by the Syrian government in May 2017 in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana. The initiative is aimed at separating extremist groups, including Islamic State terrorists (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and Jabhat al-Nusra (Al-Nusra Front) from the moderate opposition.
The deal envisaged the establishment of four de-escalation zones, which include eastern Ghouta, parts of Homs, Hama, Latakia, Aleppo and Idlib provinces as well as territories in southern Syria.
It also calls for a mechanism to monitor the ceasefire in these regions. For six months after the agreement on each zone takes effect, Russian, Iranian, and Turkish forces will monitor the situation in these areas to help maintain the ceasefire and fight terrorism. The agreement on the last de-escalation zone in Idlib province was signed on September 15.
Putin said Moscow and Ankara agreed to continue their cooperation in this field. Putin also praised the role that Erdogan played in the de-escalation process by referring to him as one of the initiators of the agreement.
Asked about the independence referendum held by Iraqi Kurds, Putin said Russia's official stance on the issue was earlier outlined in a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry. On Wednesday, the Russian foreign ministry said Moscow continues to support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq and other Middle Eastern nations.
The ministry added that, even though it respects the desire of Kurds to have a national state, it also believes that all such issues should be resolved through a peaceful dialogue aimed “at finding a mutual form of coexistence in a unified Iraqi state.”
Speaking on bilateral relations, the two leaders pledged to further remove various barriers impeding trade and investment.
Putin particularly said that successful cooperation between the relevant ministries has already enabled them to lift all restrictions on Turkish agricultural goods for the Russian market. He said Turkey’s agricultural exports to Russia increased by more than 58 percent over the first half of 2017 as a result of this shift in policy.
Erdogan said Moscow and Ankara have set a target of reaching 100 billion dollars in bilateral trade.
In addition, Russian tourists are returning to Turkey, Putin said, noting an 11 fold increase of travelers, roughly 2.5 million people. Furthermore, he said that Russia expects Unit One of Turkey’s Akkuyu nuclear power plant (NPP) to be launched very shortly. Putin added that both leaders also discussed the 'Turkish Stream' gas project.