The Latest: Putin: Syria must take over lands US leaves - InfoNews

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The Latest: Putin: Syria must take over lands US leaves

February 14, 2019 - 8:59 AM

BEIRUT - The Latest on developments related to Syria (all times local):

6:55 p.m.

The leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran have discussed the planned withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Iranian counterpart Hasan Rouhani said at a news conference after Thursday's talks in Sochi that the Syrian government must take over the regions where U.S. troops are currently deployed.

Putin emphasized that if the pullout announced by U.S. President Donald Trump in December happens, "the only right solution will be to transfer those territories under the Syrian government's control."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the U.S. pullout should not lead to a "power vacuum" and reaffirmed Turkey's intention to create a "safe zone" in northeastern Syria to secure the Turkish border from the Syrian Kurdish militia that Ankara calls "terrorists."

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4:40 p.m.

The leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran say they have agreed on the need to take further steps to stabilize Syria's Idlib province.

Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia, Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Iran's Hassan Rouhani said after Thursday's talks in Sochi they agreed on the need to counter attempts by al-Qaida-linked militants in Idlib to expand their sway.

In September, Russia and Turkey struck a de-escalation deal on Idlib that averted a Syrian army offensive on the last remaining rebel stronghold. The agreement created a security zone free of heavy weapons to be monitored by Turkey, and Russia has since voiced concern about continuing attacks by the militants.

Erdogan said Turkey has worked "extraordinary hard to preserve the calm in Idlib" and expects the Syrian government to abide by the cease-fire.

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3:55 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has told the leaders of Turkey and Iran that militants in Syria's Idlib province must be "eradicated."

Three-way talks on a peace settlement in Syria kicked off Thursday in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi amid Russia's increasing concerns about militants in Idlib.

Russia, a key backer of President Bashar Assadk, and Turkey, which supports the Syrian opposition, last year brokered a cease-fire for Idlib, the last remaining rebel stronghold that averted a major government offensive. But the deal has been strained as al-Qaida-linked militants seized towns and villages in the area.

Putin said at the beginning of the talks on Thursday that he wants to reach an agreement to "ensure a lasting de-escalation" in the region. He said that he supports the cease-fire deal but added that "this doesn't mean that we're going to put with the presence of terrorist groups" in Idlib and called on Turkey and Iran to "consider concrete steps" to destroy "the hotbed of terrorists."

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3 p.m.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the territorial integrity of Syria can only be preserved if Kurdish militia forces are driven out of the northern city of Manbij and regions east of the Euphrates River.

The Kurdish forces allied with the United States against the Islamic State group helped to rout Islamic extremists from much of northern and eastern Syria. Turkey considers the Kurdish fighters terrorists because of their links to outlawed Kurdish rebels fighting inside Turkey.

Erdogan, who is in Russia's Sochi for three-way Syria talks with the presidents of Russia and Iran, said Thursday in opening remarks at his meeting with President Vladimir Putin that Syria's "territorial integrity cannot be ensured" without the Kurdish military "cleared" from Manbij and from the east of the Euphrates. He did not elaborate.

Russia, a key backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad, is getting increasingly impatient about militants in the Idlib province.

Russia and Turkey, which supports the Syrian opposition, had brokered a cease-fire for Idlib, the last remaining rebel stronghold that averted a major government offensive but that deal has been strained as al-Qaida-linked militants seized towns and villages in Idlib.

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11:50 a.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is hosting the leaders of Turkey and Iran for talks about a Syria peace settlement as expectations mount for an imminent and final defeat of the Islamic State group.

The talks are expected to kick off in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Thursday.

Russia, a key backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad, is getting increasingly impatient about militants in Syria's Idlib province.

Russia and Turkey, which supports the Syrian opposition, had brokered a cease-fire for Idlib, the last remaining rebel stronghold that averted a major government offensive but that deal has been strained as al-Qaida-linked militants seized towns and villages in Idlib.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says Russia is going to raise its concerns at the talks about the presence of "terrorists" there.

News from © The Associated Press, 2019
The Associated Press

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