De-escalation plan would ‘half solve’ Syria conflict: Erdogan

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De-escalation plan would ‘half solve’ Syria conflict: Erdogan

Istanbul, May 4 (AFP) Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said a Moscow-backed plan to set up so-called de- escalation zones inside Syria would “50 per cent” solve the six-year conflict, in comments published today.

Erdogan yesterday discussed with Russian President Vladimir Putin a plan floated by Moscow for “de-escalation zones” to be set up in several areas in Syria.

Speaking to Turkish reporters aboard his plane flying back from the meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Erdogan said such zones would include Idlib, part of Aleppo province, El-Rastan in Homs province, a part of Damascus and part of Daraa.

“I hope that if this is implemented then 50 per cent of the Syrian issue can be solved,” he said in comments published on the websites of the Hurriyet and Yeni Safak dailies.

Details on what the de-escalation zones would comprise have been thin so far but Erdogan described the plan as a “new concept” and distinct from Ankara’s previous proposals for terror-free safe zones.

Turkey and Russia have been on sharply opposing sides in the Syria conflict, with Moscow supporting President Bashar al-Assad but Ankara pushing for his ouster.

Relations reached a dangerous low in November 2015 when Turkish warplanes shot down a Russian fighter jet over the Syrian border.

But a normalisation deal was reached last year and the two sides have been working ever more closely in a joint effort to end the fighting in Syria.

Yet tensions remain, and Erdogan said he had personally shown Putin at the talks a photograph purportedly showing Russian forces in Syria with Kurdish militia that Ankara deems to be a terror group.

He said Putin promised that Russian weapons were not ending up in the hands of the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) and vowed to investigate the picture.

Turkey and Russia have also championed peace talks taking place in the Kazakh capital Astana but these hit a snag Tuesday when pro-Ankara Syrian rebels said yesterday they were suspending their participation after air strikes.

But Erdogan said the issue had been solved after intervention by Turkey’s powerful intelligence chief Hakan Fidan.

“Mr Hakan immediately stepped in, had discussions and the opposition were again satisfied to take part in the talks,” Erdogan said. “So Astana is going to continue.” (AFP) CPS

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.