Turkey, Russia back Iraq, Syria's territorial integrity

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Ankara and Moscow agree on the territorial integrity of Iraq and Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday.

Erdogan's remarks came after a meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at the presidential complex in capital Ankara.

"We have discussed regional issues including Iraq and Syria. We both agree on the territorial integrity of Iraq and Syria," Erdogan told a news conference with Putin.

"As Turkey and Russia, we have reconfirmed our determination to maintain our joint will and close cooperation to find a political solution for the Syrian conflict," he said.

The president also commented on Monday's illegitimate Kurdish independence referendum in northern Iraq, and reiterated that it had "no legitimacy" in terms of Iraqi constitution and international law.

The referendum saw Iraqis in Kurdish Regional Government-controlled areas -- and in a handful of territories disputed between Erbil and Baghdad, including ethnically mixed Kirkuk and Mosul -- vote on whether or not to declare independence.

Official preliminary results revealed that 93 percent of voters backed Kurdish independence, although the vote was widely criticized by the international community.

Along with Iraq’s central government, Turkey, the U.S., Iran, and the UN had spoken out against the poll, warning it would distract from the ongoing fight against Daesh and further destabilize the region.

- De-escalation zones in Syria

Putin said the establishment of de-escalation zones in Syria had given "significant momentum" to the Geneva process, referring to the peace talks between the Syrian regime and opposition envoys.

"It was really difficult to carry out the workings of these de-escalation zones," Putin said, adding however, an important achievement had been made thanks to Erdogan's efforts and will in this regard.

During a meeting in Kazakh capital Astana on May 4, the guarantor countries -- Russia, Turkey, and Iran -- signed a deal to establish de-escalation zones in Syria.

A December cease-fire in Syria brokered by three countries led to the Astana talks, which are being held in parallel to UN-backed discussions in Geneva, to find a political solution to the six-year conflict.

Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity. Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict, according to the UN.

- Bilateral relations

Both Erdogan and Putin said that they had a "productive" meeting and exchanged views on the areas of regional politics, trade and energy.

Erdogan said both leaders agreed to boost economic ties even further, noting the trade volume between the two countries had increased 22 percent in the first seven months of the year.

He reiterated Turkey's desire to increase mutual trade volume up to $100 billion.

Putin said the number of Russian tourists traveling to Turkey had increased elevenfold in 2017 and reached 2.5 million so far.

"In the first half of this year, agricultural exports from Turkey to Russia increased by 58.7 percent," he added.

On June 2, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree lifting the ban on some agricultural produce and Turkish companies involved in construction, engineering and tourism in the aftermath of the downing of a Russian fighter jet in 2015.

Anadolu Agency


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