Turkey’s Erdogan to travel to Russia for talks over Syria offensive
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Turkey’s Erdogan to travel to Russia for talks over Syria offensive

Putin moves quickly to entrench leadership role and fill void after Trump ordered pullout of American forces that had been protecting Kurdish-controlled areas

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands after a joint press conference following their meeting at the Presidential Complex in Ankara,  April 3, 2018. (ADEM ALTAN/AFP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands after a joint press conference following their meeting at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, April 3, 2018. (ADEM ALTAN/AFP)

AKCAKALE, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office announced Wednesday that he will travel to Sochi, Russia for talks over Turkey’s military offensive northeast Syria on October 22.

Russian President Vladimir Putin invited Erdogan to visit Russia to discuss Syria during a call between the two leaders on Tuesday, amid pressure on Turkey to halt its incursion.

Putin invited Erdogan “for a working visit in the coming days. The invitation was accepted,” Putin’s office had said in a statement late Tuesday.

Turkey’s military push, now into its eighth day, aims to carve out a safe zone along its border with Syria that would be cleared of Syrian Kurdish fighters it regards as terrorists and a national security threat.

Confirmations of the meeting came ahead of a mission by US Vice President Mike Pence to press Turkey for a cease-fire in its attack on Syrian Kurdish fighters.

Turkish soldiers prepare to enter Syria aboard an armored personnel carrier at the border with Syria in Karkamis, Gaziantep province, southeastern Turkey, October 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

Erdogan has defied US economic sanctions, saying the only way its military offensive would end was if Syrian Kurdish fighters leave a designated border area.

Erdogan also threw into doubt a planned November 13 meeting with US President Donald Trump, citing anger over the sanctions that Washington imposed Monday on the NATO ally.

Russia has moved quickly to entrench its leadership role and fill the void after Trump ordered the pullout of American forces in northeastern Syria. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies that Moscow is committed to mediating between Syria and Turkey.

The American move effectively abandoned the Kurdish fighters allied with the US and cleared the way for Turkey’s invasion aimed at crushing them. After heavy criticism at home, Trump sought new leverage with Turkey by imposing the sanctions.

America’s abrupt withdrawal of its troops pushed the Kurds to strike a deal with the Russia-backed government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, allowing his forces to return to regions of northern Syria they abandoned at the height of the 8-year-old civil war. It has also allowed Moscow to take a more prominent role as an interlocutor among Assad, the former US-allied Kurds and Turkey.

AFP contributed to this report.

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