All three countries are in agreement over the removal of all terror groups from Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters on his way back from meeting his Russian counterpart in Moscow.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters as he travelled from Moscow that Turkey and Russia's cooperation
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters as he travelled from Moscow that Turkey and Russia's cooperation "saved Idlib". (AA)

Turkey's President Erdogan discussed his US counterpart Donald Trump's security zone and its implementation in Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

"Our Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Defence Ministry and the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) will continue their meetings with the US and the Russian Federation," Erdogan said about the security zone in northern Syria. He was talking to reporters on his trip back from Moscow where he met Putin.

Erdogan said both Ankara and Moscow were in agreement over the removal of all terror groups from Syria.

"We also had the opportunity to discuss the fight against YPG/PKK, Daesh and all terror organisations in Syria."

President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) and President of Russia Vladimir Putin (R) hold a joint press conference following an inter-delegation meeting at Kremlin Palace in Moscow, Russia on January 23, 2019.
President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) and President of Russia Vladimir Putin (R) hold a joint press conference following an inter-delegation meeting at Kremlin Palace in Moscow, Russia on January 23, 2019. (AA)

'PKK/YPG should be removed from Manbij'

In its more than 30-year campaign against Turkey, the PKK — listed as a terror organisation by Turkey, the US and EU — has been responsible for the deaths of some 40,000 people, including women and children. YPG/PYD is its Syrian branch.

"As of today Russia, like the US, is also saying PKK/YPG will leave Manbij. This is also our goal, they should be removed from the area and sent to the East of Euphrates," Erdogan said.

"According to the numbers we have, there are about 1,000 PKK/YPG terrorists in Manbij; some are claiming that there aren't any, but these are the numbers we have according to our intelligence," Erdogan said.

Manbij had a population of 700,000 people and most had no choice but to leave after terror groups entered the city, Erdogan saidAnd the goal now was to remove these terror groups from Manbij so the city can be returned to its real owners.

"Now there is a new process and under this, the area has to be cleared in 90 days," Erdogan said referring to Manbij which is under the control of the terror group.

Manbij roadmap

Turkey and US earlier agreed on a Manbij roadmap that presents a three-stage process for withdrawal of the PKK/YPG from the city that lies 30 kilometres (20 miles) south of the Turkish border. But the agreement delayed by the US.

"We care about the safety of our Kurdish brothers in Syria more than anyone else. It is unthinkable to consider PKK/YPG terrorists same as our Kurdish brothers," Erdogan added.

Erdogan, commenting on the US decision to support PKK/YPG during the Raqqa operation, said the US had made a crucial mistake in Raqqa and had paid the price for it.

"If they had accepted our proposition ... not only would Raqqa have been recaptured, but the problem of forced migration and loss of life also would have been prevented."

Speaking on the demilitarised zone in Idlib, Erdogan said Turkey "will not allow any terrorist organisation to operate there, Manbij or East of Euphrates" and Turkey has the "ability to provide security and stability" to these regions.

'We saved Idlib'

"We are continuing the Idlib process that we started in Sochi. But right now there are radical elements trying to derail this process," the Turkish president said about the largest opposition stronghold in Syria.

"But together with Russia, we believe that we can ensure the welfare and well-being of Idlib," Erdogan said.

Turkey and Russia's cooperation saved Idlib, he added, saying, "If we had not had cooperated in Idlib, hundreds of thousands of people could have been forced to migrate and there may even have been massacres taking place."

"We, with Russia, handled Idlib very well. Moreover, I can say that we saved it."

In September 2018, following a meeting between Erdogan and Putin, the two sides agreed to set up a demilitarized zone in Idlib.

Under the deal, opposition groups in Idlib are to remain in areas where they are already present, while Russia and Turkey conduct joint patrols in the area to prevent renewed fighting.

The Adana agreement

Erdogan also commented on the Adana Agreement which was signed between Turkey and Syria in October 1998.

"We have an agreement signed by the father (Hafez al) Assad in 1998. This agreement covers the fight against terrorism and handover of PKK terror organisation members to Turkey," Erdogan told reporters.

"This was an important step. It may be possible to bring this back on the agenda. Mr Putin also underlined this issue."

The Adana Agreement was signed following an ultimatum by Turkey to Syria in which Ankara said Damascus must stop its support of the PKK.

In fall of 1998, Syria kicked Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the PKK, from the country and shut down PKK terror camps.

Source: TRT World