Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has discussed Ankara’s planned military operation in northern Syria and the war in Ukraine with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Erdogan’s office said Monday. Putin also discussed the export of grain from Ukrainian ports in coordination with Turkey, a statement from Moscow said.
In recent days Erdogan has said Turkey will launch a cross-border incursion against Kurdish militants in Syria to create a 30-kilometer-deep buffer zone. He told Putin in a phone call that the frontier zone was agreed in 2019 but had not been implemented, the Turkish presidency said.
Ankara carried out an operation against the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, in October 2019. Russia, the Syrian regime and the United States also have troops in the border region.
Turkey consider the YPG to be a terrorist group linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, that has waged an insurgency against Turkey since 1984, leading to the deaths of tens of thousands of people.
However, the YPG forms the backbone of US-led forces in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria. The US has not been happy with Turkey’s previous incursions into Syria.
Erdogan also told Putin that Turkey was ready to resume a role in ending the war in Ukraine, including taking part in a possible “observation mechanism” between Ukraine, Russia and the United Nations, the statement said.
Negotiations in Istanbul held in March failed to make any headway but Turkey, which has close ties to both Kyiv and Moscow, has repeatedly put itself forward as a possible mediator.
The Turkish president also called for peace in Ukraine as soon as possible and for confidence-building steps to be taken.
Putin also said that Russia was ready to facilitate the unhindered export of grain from Ukrainian ports in coordination with Turkey, according to a Kremlin readout of talks with Erdogan.
Russia and Ukraine together account for 29% of global wheat exports, mainly via the Black Sea, and for 80% of global exports of sunflower oil. Ukraine is also a major corn exporter.
In the call with Erdogan, Putin reiterated that Russia may export significant volumes of fertilizers and food in case sanctions against Moscow are lifted, according to the Kremlin readout.
“During the discussion of the situation in Ukraine, emphasis was placed on ensuring safe navigation in the Black and Azov seas and eliminating the mine threat in their waters,” the Kremlin said.
“Vladimir Putin noted the readiness of the Russian side to facilitate the unhindered sea transit of goods in coordination with Turkish partners. This also applies to the export of grain from Ukrainian ports.”
Moscow is expecting a record crop this year, with exports to be shipped out of Russia’s open Black Sea ports, while Ukraine’s remain blockaded by the Russian navy. [AP, Reuters]