Differences on Syria Between Russia, Turkey Can Be Resolved Through Dialogue: Kremlin

MOSCOW (Sputnik) – There are disagreements between Russia and Turkey on Syria, but all of them can be resolved through dialogue as the two countries enjoy a high level of relations, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Sunday.

“There are disagreements with Turkey on Syria,” Peskov told the Moscow.Kremlin.Putin TV program, adding that “the level of relations and political wisdom” allows Moscow and Ankara “to resolve such disagreements not through confrontation, but through tense, I may say even needlessly long and tense, negotiations.”

As an example, the Kremlin spokesman recalled a dispute over the 2019 Sochi agreement on Syria. Erdogan has repeatedly accused Moscow of not fulfilling the agreements, while Russian representatives have claimed the same about Ankara. However, the level of bilateral ties has allowed the sides to consider all controversial issues during the talks, Peskov said.

Last week, Ankara conducted an air operation against the Syrian wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), outlawed in Turkey, in northern Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the operation a success and admitted the possibility of conducting an additional operation soon. During the 19th round of negotiations on Syria in Astana from November 22-23, Moscow urged Turkey to refrain from conducting a new operation.

The war in Syria has been going on since 2011, with President Bashar Assad’s forces fighting various armed insurgent groups. Since 2016, the Turkish armed forces have been also conducting air and ground operations in Syria against the PKK, which wants to establish a Kurdish autonomy in Turkey.

In 2017, Russia, Turkey and Iran launched a mediation group on the Syrian settlement in Astana. In January 2018, the Russian city of Sochi hosted a congress of the Syrian national dialogue, the first such attempt since the start of the conflict to gather an inclusive pool of Syrian political forces. The main result of the Congress was the decision to create a Constitutional Committee, which operates in Geneva and whose main task is to prepare a constitutional reform in Syria.

In October 2019, Moscow and Ankara also signed a 10-point memorandum of understanding, which provided for the introduction of the Russian military police and the Syrian border service to Syria’s border with Turkey, outside the zone of the Turkish operation Peace Spring. The measure was aimed at facilitating the withdrawal of Kurdish detachments and their weapons 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) from the Syrian-Turkish border.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in late October 2019 that the withdrawal of Kurdish formations had been completed ahead of schedule. After that, a joint Russian-Turkish patrol started.