US, Russia counter Erdogan in Syria as Kurds get shield

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Turkey's military chief of staff is meeting his US and Russian counterparts in the southern Turkish province of Antalya to discuss regional security, notably in Syria and Iraq, the Turkish armed forces said on Tuesday.

During the meeting, the two leaders also discussed bilateral affairs including cooperation in trade, energy, investment and infrastructure.

Erdogan also called the meetings in Astana, Kazakhstan where the Syrian ceasefire was agreed earlier this year "an additional factor, making the process launched in Geneva more effective". Moscow retaliated by slapping extremely painful sanctions on Turkish imports and banning its holiday-loving population from visiting the country, which is easily Russians' favourite tourist destination thanks to a visa-free entry requirement. "The first will carry the fuel to Turkey's domestic market and the second - provided our European partners are interested - will bring gas to Europe via Turkey", he said. Two lines with a capacity of 15.75 billion cubic metres a year each will be laid across the Black Sea bed.

"We expect the pipeline to be completed at the targeted time", he added.

Russian Federation and Turkey act as guarantors of the ceasefire in Syria, which came into force on December 30.

"So we are sending a message to all forces that are there on the ground to remain focused on the counter-ISIS fight and concentrate their efforts on defeating ISIS and not towards other objectives that may detract from the coalition's ongoing campaign", Toner said in a message to Turkey that threatened to attack Manbij.

He told a news conference it was mostly "Russia and Turkey that have made a major contribution not only to securing a ceasefire between Syrian government forces and the armed opposition, but also to launching direct, concrete talks" between them.

Regarding the FETO (the Gülenist Terror Group) terrorist organization, unfortunately, we know that under the guise of other organizations, they are active in certain Russian cities, as well as in Moscow and St Petersburg.

"We managed to overcome provocative actions and all issues".

Ankara is particularly concerned about the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia which it considers to be an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that has fought a three-decade insurgency inside Turkey.

The leaders also confirmed their readiness to go forward with the most important Russian-Turkish economic projects.

Putin pointed to the trustful and effective work of the military authorities and intelligence services of Russian Federation and Turkey on Syria.

Semyon Bagdasarov, director of the Center for Middle East and Central Asian Studies, said it's obvious what Erdogan wants: he takes issue with Syrian Kurds due to their close links to Turkish Kurds, whom Ankara accuses of separatism.