Russia, Turkey to coordinate on Syria: Foreign ministers

Moscow and Ankara will coordinate military activities in the war-torn country as the US decides to withdraw its troops.

    Russia and Turkey have agreed to coordinate ground operations in Syria after last week's announcement of a United States' military withdrawal, Turkish and Russian foreign ministers said.

    "We paid special attention to new circumstances which appeared in connection with the announced US military pullout," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks with Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in Moscow on Saturday.

    "An understanding was reached on how military representatives of Russia and Turkey will continue to coordinate their steps on the ground under new conditions with a view to finally rooting out terrorist threats in Syria," Lavrov said.

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    Cavusoglu confirmed the two countries would coordinate Syria operations, adding they also discussed plans to help refugees to return home.  

    "We will continue active work (and) coordination with our Russian colleagues and colleagues from Iran to speed up the arrival of a political settlement in the Syrian Republic," he said in remarks translated into Russian. 

    He reminded that Turkey and Russia, as guarantors of the Astana peace process, are defending Syria's territorial integrity and political unity from all efforts to harm them.

    Turkey and Russia have a joint will to clear all "terrorist" groups from Syria, Cavusoglu added.

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    Besides Lavrov and Cavusoglu, Turkey's Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, intelligence chief Hakan Fidan and presidential aide Ibrahim Kalin held talks on Saturday with Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu, Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov, Presidential Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev, and presidential aide Yuri Ushakov. 

    In a surprise move, US President Donald Trump last week said he was pulling all 2,000 troops from Syria, declaring that Washington achieved its objective with the "defeat" of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).

    The ISIL group, which in the past held large swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq, has lost nearly all its areas, although thousands of its armed members are thought to remain in war-battered Syria. 

    Three-way summit early next year

    On Friday, Russia said it would host a three-way summit with Turkey and Iran on the Syrian conflict early next year.

    Turkey had threatened a military operation against Manbij to remove the Kurdish-led forces, which Ankara calls "terrorists". Turkey and its allied fighters have been amassing troops around the city in recent days.

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    The Turkish threats coincided with the US announcement that it would withdraw troops from Syria.

    Russia, Iran and Turkey have been working together to bring about peace in Syria under what is known as the Astana process, named after the Kazakh capital where the talks take place.

    Each country plays a key role in the conflict that started in March 2011. Russia and Iran have intervened on the side of Syria's government, ensuring its survival.

    Turkey supports rebel groups against Assad in northern Syria, which is also to prevent Syrian Kurds from establishing and expanding territory along its border.

    Various so-called "de-escalation zones" were agreed among the three guarantor powers in Syria as a result of multiple rounds of talks.

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies