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With Trump Pulling Out, Russia and Turkey Schmooze

They plan to focus on the 'terrorist threat'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 29, 2018 11:10 AM CST
Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, right, and Turkey's Defense Minister Hulusi Akar attend a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in...   (Vadim Savitsky, Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)
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(Newser) – Top Russian and Turkish ministers agreed during a meeting in Moscow on Saturday to maintain cooperation in northern Syria as US forces prepare to withdraw and Turkey threatens to launch a military operation against US-backed Kurdish forces controlling nearly a third of the country, the AP reports. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said before the talks began that they would focus on the situation in and around Idlib, as well as "what can and should be done" when the US withdraws from Syria. After the meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters that much of the discussion focused on the pending US withdrawal, and that Russia and Turkey managed to agree on coordinating their steps in Syria "to ultimately eradicate the terrorist threat."

Turkey's official Anadolu news agency said the meeting lasted an hour and a half. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Russia and Turkey have a "shared will on cleaning Syria from all terror organizations," and added Turkey would continue its "close cooperation" with Russia and Iran in Syria and the region. The Syrian military said it entered the Kurdish stronghold of Manbij on Friday as part of an apparent agreement between the two sides. The Kurds are looking for new allies to protect against a threatened Turkish offensive as US forces prepare to leave. With President Donald Trump's surprise decision to withdraw troops earlier this month, Turkey announced it will hold off on a threatened offensive against Kurdish militants that it considers terrorists. It has, however, continued amassing troops at the border as it monitors the situation. (Here's what Trump told troops on his visit to Iraq.)


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