Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in a phone interview on Sunday of the need to “cleanse” Kurdish forces from northern Syria.
“It is important and a priority to clear the terrorists’ borders at least 30 kilometers deep, according to the 2019 Sochi Memorandum,” Erdogan said, referring to Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units in northern Syria, according to a statement from the Turkish presidency.
The Turkish head of state has been threatening since November to launch a ground military operation in northern Syria to push back the People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters, whom Ankara accuses of being behind an attack that killed six people in Istanbul on November 13.
Kurdish forces denied any involvement.
In 2019, an agreement between Ankara and Moscow ended another Turkish offensive, promising to create a 30-kilometer “safe zone” to protect Turkey from attacks that might come from Syrian territory.
An agreement on similar terms was struck separately between Ankara and Washington in 2019.
Turkey accuses Russia, as well as the United States, of not respecting these agreements and of failing to remove the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) from the Turkish border.
On November 20, Turkey launched a series of air raids in northeastern Syria on sites of Kurdish fighters, which it described as “terrorists”.
A few hundred soldiers of the international coalition are deployed in this area in the hands of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF, which is dominated by the Kurds), at the forefront of the fight against the jihadist Islamic State (ISIS), which was expelled from its strongholds in Syria in 2019. .
Moscow and Washington announced their opposition to a possible Turkish ground incursion into northern Syria.