Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan give a press conference following their meeting in Sochi, Russia, May 3, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Russia and Turkey have both underscored the need to continue the fight against terrorism and step up safe zones in war-torn Syria.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a joint news conference with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Wednesday that the two countries were boosting cooperation to battle terror.
“While exchanging opinions on the regional and international agenda, we paid much attention to the fight against terrorism. We agreed to intensify the cooperation between the intelligence agencies and ministries of defense in particular, to continue regular consultations on battling terrorism between the departments,” he said.
Putin also hailed efforts by Moscow, Tehran and Ankara regarding the resolution of the Syria crisis, saying the attempts not only facilitated a nationwide ceasefire in Syria, but also brought warring sides to the negotiation table.
Erdogan, for his part, said Turkey would continue to take measures against what he called threats from its southern borders with Syria and Iraq, adding that he believed Putin would play a major role in establishing a truce in Syria.
The Turkish president added that Turkey considered no difference between the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and Daesh.
"We do not differentiate between terrorist organizations. Daesh, YPG, al-Qaeda are all the same for us," Erdogan said. "It is our mutual responsibility to scrape away their roots.”
Russia, Turkey agree on Syria safe zones
The Russian president said Moscow and Ankara had both agreed that "the creation of safe zones must lead to further conciliation and strengthening of the ceasefire regime.”
Moscow had already conducted "preliminary consultations" with Damascus, Tehran and US President Donald Trump concerning the safe zones in Syria, Putin added.
However, Syria’s warring sides should themselves make "the final decision," he pointed out.
"In the end, only they are in charge of their country's fate. On our side, we – Russia, Turkey and Iran – as guarantors of a ceasefire, will make everything for such mechanisms to improve and be efficient," Putin said.
Regardless of the safe zones, the fight against the Daesh, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and other terrorist groups operating in Syria should go on, the Russian president pointed out.
Erdogan, for his part, supported the formation of safe zones in Syria and expressed hope that "this zone of de-escalation will be accepted" at the Syria peace talks underway in the Kazakh capital, Astana.
Moscow, Ankara to scrap trade curbs except for tomatoes
The Turkish president said Ankara and Moscow had agreed to lift all trade restrictions, except those on exports of Turkish tomatoes to Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a meeting in Sochi, Russia, May 3, 2017. (Via Reuters)
Putin confirmed that a Russian import ban on Turkish tomatoes as well as visa restrictions with Turkey would stay in place for now.
Bilateral ties recovered
Putin said Russia's relationship with Turkey had fully recovered after a "crisis" caused by Ankara's shooting down of a Russian warplane near the Syrian border in 2015.
"Sometime ago our bilateral relationship faced some challenges, but now we can state with assurance that recovery process in our relationship has finished. We come back to the normal partnership," he said.
Russia and Iran have been providing assistance to the Syrian government to rid the Arab country of terrorist outfits. Turkey, however, has taken an opposite stance and is supporting anti-Damascus militants who are wreaking havoc in Syria.
Recently, the Ankara government has slightly changed its stance on Syria and taken part in diplomatic efforts aimed at bringing an end to the conflict gripping the Middle Eastern state.

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