Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeated statements on the necessity of a safe zone in Syria in his Eid message following his meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Wednesday.
Erdogan gave a speech along with his greetings for the holy festival after attending Eid prayers in Emirgan Mosque in Istanbul.
Erdogan said, ‘’There are two million Syrian refugees in Turkey and we know that these people want to return their country. Accordingly, we support the territorial integrity of Syria and demand a safe zone in the region, which we discussed with Putin and other allies.’’
As to the solution process in Syria, Erdogan said, "We have a United Nations assembly in front of us in which we will discuss the issue with US and Russia. If Iran and Saudi Arabia want to join the negotiations, we will also collaborate with them and continue the negotiations together. Depending on the developments, the solution process could possibly be with Assad or without him but what should happen is a solution without Assad because no one sees a future with a dictator who caused the death of over 300 thousand people."
Erdogan stated that he told Putin on Wednesday that Assad wants to build a "boutique" Syria which is made of 15 percent of the total territory of Syria including Damascus, Hama, Homs and Latakia.
‘’The support of Russia for the Assad Regime is obvious; however we believe that Russia will do what is necessary with respect to our discussions and solidarity with Putin yesterday,’’ he added.
Erdogan also criticised the US for its support for the PYD which controls most of Syria’s 900 kilometer border with Turkey and is closely linked to the outlawed PKK.
The US is known to support the YPG (the People’s Protection Units) , which is the armed wing of the PYD (Democratic Union Party), in the regional struggle against ISIS as US officials confirm.
Erdogan said, “Just as ISIS is, the YPG and the PYD are both terrorist organisations to us. The US does not pay the price from this issue but Turkey does and we know all the deeds of PYD or YPG. So, I think they will probably reevaluate their approach.”
Erdogan also said, ‘’We are passing through hard times in the country and hopefully we will get over all the hardships in the upcoming elections with a decision for trust and stability.’’
Turkish President Erdogan and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin participated in the opening ceremony of the Moscow Central Mosque accompanied by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other foreign dignitaries on Wednesday.
The two leaders later discussed bilateral relations and issues on the international agenda.
Erdogan called on the EU on Wednesday to do more to resolve the Syrian refugee crisis, saying, “I want to recall the Russian writer Tolstoy’s message, which says the most important act in life is kindness.”
Erdogan and Putin content with bilateral economic relations
Putin said in the meeting “Despite the fall due to a number of objective circumstances, Russia remains Turkey’s second-biggest trade and economic partner. Our trade and economic relations continue to diversify, which makes us very happy. Investment has increased on both sides by around $10 billion from each country.”
According to official Turkish statistics, trade between Russia and Turkey reached $31 billion in 2014, and it has already hit $11 billion over the first six months of this year.
Erdogan said, “As you know, our goal is to reach a figure of $100 billion by 2023. Let us hope that fortune is on our side and we will succeed in reaching this objective,” while Putin replied, “We are very satisfied with the development of bilateral relations.''
The Akkuyu nuclear power plant, which is being built in Turkey by Russia, was also discussed during the talks.
The project is estimated to cost about $20 billion and will be the first nuclear power plant in the country.
Another topic on the agenda of the meeting was the Turkish Stream pipeline that will deliver Russian gas to Turkey through the Black Sea
However, it was reported that Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak does not foresee a deal on the issue will be signed until a new Turkish government is formed following the upcoming election on Nov 1.