In surprise visit to airbase in Syria, Russian president orders his troops to start pulling out of the war-torn country.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has concluded a whirlwind one-day regional tour with a stop in Turkey, where he joined his Turkish counterpart in criticising a US decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Before landing in Ankara on Monday to meet Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Putin made an unscheduled visit to war-torn Syria, where he ordered Russian troops to start withdrawing, and Egypt, to hold planned talks with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
His lightning visit to the region highlighted Russia’s expanding ties with key players in the Middle East, analysts said.
It also came amid growing anger in the region and the Muslim world over US President Donald Trump‘s decision about declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel. The shift in US policy was also widely condemned by Washington’s allies.
Speaking alongside Erdogan after their meeting in the Turkish capital, Putin said Jerusalem’s status should be settled through direct talks between Palestinians and Israel.
“Both Russia and Turkey think the decision of the US to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is not helping the situation in the Middle East,” he said during a press conference.
“It is destabilising the region and wiping out the prospect of peace,” added Putin.
Erdogan said he was “pleased” by Putin’s stand, and condemned Israel over the deaths of Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories as protests against Trump’s plan continue for the sixth day there.
Palestinians see occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (IOC) is scheduled to discuss the issue in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, on Wednesday.
Erdogan said the summit would be a “turning point” on the crisis and Russia promised to send a representative.
Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Adow, reporting from Ankara, said Putin “has capitalised on the anti-Trump fervour in the region” with his three-leg regional tour.
Marwan Karbalam, a Middle East analyst, also said Putin’s trip was aimed at “projecting power in the Middle East by visiting two US allies – Egypt and Turkey – who have grown closer to Russia over the past couple of years”.
He “tried to make use of the difficult relationship the US allies are having with their international patron in order to increase his influence”, Karbalam told Al Jazeera.
Putin announced last week he will seek a new term in Russia’s upcoming presidential elections next year.
Yury Barmin, a fellow at the Russian International Affairs Council, said his tour was also “a final step to convince the Russian public that Vladimir Putin is a strong leader and needs to be re-elected”.
Putin and Erdogan also discussed strengthening economic and military ties, as well as developments in Syria.
Turkish and Russian officials will meet to finalise Turkey’s purchase of S-400 missile systems from Moscow in the coming week, said Erdogan.
He went on to extoll closer relations between Turkey and Russia as “important and meaningful for regional stability”, adding that the two countries would work to find a “lasting political solution” to Syria’s civil war.
Earlier in the day, while speaking to Russian troops at Syria’s Khmeimim airbase, Putin had declared “victory” over “terrorists” in the country.
Other major developments from Putin’s regional tour included the signing of a $21bn deal between Russia and Egypt to build Cairo’s first nuclear power plant.