Russia, Turkey 'reach understanding' on Syria after US pullout move
Posted December 29, 2018 9:45 a.m. EST
(CNN) — Russian and Turkish officials have reached an "understanding" on coordination of military activities in Syria following a high-level meeting in Moscow, Russian state news outlets cited Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as saying.
"An understanding was reached over how the military representatives of Russia and Turkey on the ground will continue to coordinate their steps under the new conditions with an aim toward the final eradication of the terrorist threat in Syria," Lavrov said, according to state news agency RIA-Novosti.
Senior Russian and Turkish officials met in Moscow on Saturday to discuss the rapidly evolving situation on the ground in Syria after US President Donald Trump made the surprise announcement that US troops were withdrawing.
Trump's move prompted Kurdish fighters to call on Syrian government forces to protect the northern city of Manbij from the threat of a Turkish attack. Turkey considers the Syrian Kurds a terrorist group linked to a Kurdish insurgency inside its country.
Syria's army said Friday it had entered Manbij for the first time in years. The US military rejected the Syrian claims.
Lavrov gave few specifics on any agreements that had been reached Saturday, but said Russian and Turkish officials had "paid special attention to the new circumstances that have arisen in connection with the US announcing the withdrawal of its military," RIA-Novosti reported.
Lavrov described the talks, which included top diplomatic, military and intelligence officials, as "very useful," and said both countries affirmed the territorial integrity of Syria, state television channel Rossiya-24 and RIA-Novosti reported.
Trump blindsided allies in the region 10 days ago by announcing that US troops were quitting Syria and declaring that the war against ISIS had been won.
US Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned in disagreement over the President's decision, which could leave the Syrian Kurds, whom the United States has assisted and armed, at risk from both ISIS and Turkey. The United States has about 2,000 troops in Syria, and no specific date for their withdrawal has been given.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham warned Friday that the Kurdish militia's move to align with the Syrian regime after years of fighting is a "disaster in the making" as "new conflicts between regional powers" take the pressure off ISIS.
"Nightmare for Turkey and eventually Israel. Big winners are Russia, Iran/Assad and ISIS," he tweeted.