Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for an increase in efforts to establish peace in Syria after meeting his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani on Thursday.
Their talks came a day after US President Donald Trump announced that he was ordering staff to execute the “full” and “rapid” withdrawal of US military from Syria, declaring that the US has defeated ISIS.
“We must intensify our efforts to establish peace in Syria that embraces all Syrians,” Erdogan said at a joint press conference with Rouhani in Ankara.
“We have not and will not allow any organization that threatens the security and stability of our country or our region,” Erdogan said. “Our will is steadfast in continuing and increasing our cooperation with Iran on this issue and to neutralize common targets together.”
Rouhani said the relationship between the two countries was based on mutual interests. “Turkey and Iran are in agreement when it comes to preserving the territorial integrity of Syria,” the Iranian President said.
Turkey is “deepening [its] cooperation with Iran,” Erdogan said, as he reiterated that his country does not support the United States’ sanctions on Iran.
The Syria pullout order, which surprised US allies in the region, came after a call last Friday between Trump and Erdogan.
A US departure from Syria could give Turkey an advantage in its efforts to pressure Kurdish rebels in Syria and to stop them from bolstering the Kurdish militant group PKK, which it views as a terrorist organization.
In another, possibly connected, development, the US on Tuesday approved the sale of a $3.5 billion Patriot missile system to Turkey.
Turkey on Wednesday welcomed the US decision to withdraw from Syria and said it was consistent with the framework that emerged from Erdogan and Trump’s recent phone conversation, a senior Turkish official told CNN.
“Turkey and the United States are working very closely on a range of issues. We welcome this opportunity to further strengthen our cooperation with our fellow NATO ally,” the official told CNN.
The US has about 2,000 troops in Syria, where they are primarily training local forces to combat ISIS. The US-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have had some recent success against the group and are on the cusp of capturing the last major town held by ISIS east of the Euphrates River.
Even though the US will maintain troops in Iraq with the capability of launching strikes into Syria, many analysts said a withdrawal of ground forces there would please the enemies of the US by clearing the way for the Assad regime, Russia and Iran.