Russian president Vladimir Putin welcomed his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the Kremlin on Wednesday, where the pair were set to discuss the ongoing conflict in Syria, a country in which both nations have a military presence, albeit on opposing sides.
Putin and Erdogan met in the Russian capital ahead of bilateral talks in which strategies on how to bring peace to Syria, which has been embroiled in a bitter and complicated civil war since 2011, are set to take prime place at the top of the agenda, Efe reported.
“Turkey isn’t just fighting all forms of terrorism in Syria. We are also working for a political solution to the devastating crisis next door,” Fahretting Altun, a spokesperson for the Turkish presidency, wrote on Twitter ahead of the meeting.
“Syria’s territorial integrity and political stability are key priorities for Turkey. We will continue to work toward those goals,” he added.
Russia and Turkey form part of the so-called Astana Talks alongside Iran, which aim to implement a peace plan in Syria, working outside of the discussion being held at the UN.
Putin became involved in the war in Syria in 2015, when he moved to back Bashar al-Assad, the once-embattled president whose change of fortunes in the intervening years is widely put down to Moscow’s military might. Assad’s forces and their allies now control the vast majority of the country.
Turkey, on the other hand, has offered its support to a patchwork of armed opposition groups in control of areas of northeastern Syria.
Ankara’s principal aim in the Syrian conflict is to clear the border areas of armed groups led by the Kurdish YPG militia, which it sees as intrinsically linked to its more habitual foe the PKK, which has been engaged in a decades-long conflict in eastern Turkey.
The Syrian Democratic Forces, a group dominated by YPG units, have benefited from the aerial firepower and on-the-ground technical support of the US in its fight against the Islamic State terror organisation.
After the US President Donald Trump’s recent shock announcement he would pull US forces from northern Syria, Turkey has ramped up its threats to seize areas of the country away from the YPG.
Ankara has recently tabled a buffer zone, offering to control a security corridor stretching from its border 32 kilometres into northern Syria.
The UN estimates that around 400,000 people have died in the Syrian war.