ISTANBUL ( Associated Press) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for the creation of a 30-kilometer (19-mile) security strip along his country’s border with Syria in a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Erdogan’s office said Sunday.
Referring to Kurdish fighters that Turkey considers terrorists, Erdogan reiterated the “importance and urgency” of building up the strip in northern Syria in compliance with a 2019 agreement between Turkey and Russia, the statement said.
The call comes three weeks after Turkey launched air and shell strikes in Syria and Iraq in response to a bomb attack in Istanbul on November 13 that killed six people and injured many more. The Turkish government attributes the attack to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its Syrian ally, the People’s Protection Units (YPG).
Both groups have denied involvement in the attack.
The PKK has been waging an insurgency against Turkey for 38 years, killing thousands. It is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States, and the European Union. However, the YPG is not considered a terrorist entity by Washington or Brussels and has helped in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria.
Erdogan has threatened a ground attack in northern Syria. A planned Turkish invasion was recently called off due to pressure from the United States and Russia, which have military bases in the region.
Under a 2019 deal with Turkey, Russia promised to set up a security belt between the Turkish border and the YPG, controlled by the Syrian army and Russian military police. The agreement was not fully implemented, although both Russian and Syrian forces are present in the border area, as well as some US troops.