Putin, Erdogan discussed Syria-Turkey rapprochement: Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart discussed the rapprochement between the latter's country and Syria.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed the rapprochement of ties between Ankara and Damascus, the Kremlin said on Monday.
"Issues of normalization of Turkish-Syrian relations were discussed, including in the context of Ankara's initiative to launch consultations with the participation of Russian, Turkish, and Syrian representatives," the statement read.
"The practical significance of the joint work of Russia, Turkey, and Iran within the framework of the Astana process of promoting the Syrian settlement was also noted," it added.
Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad underlined on Saturday that Syria, "in all its moves since 2011 until this moment, seeks to end terrorism that has perturbed our relations with Turkey."
"The appropriate conditions must be realized in order to hold meetings at higher levels with the Turkish leadership," Mekdad said.
"It is not possible to talk about restoring normal relations with Turkey without uprooting the occupation," he added.
He also said that Damascus' coordination with Tehran in various regional and international frameworks was an indication of Iran's commitment to Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Meanwhile, Turkish foreign policy adviser Kalin, Russia's mediation in reconciliation efforts does not imply that Turkey has discarded the option of launching a ground offensive.
"A ground operation is possible any time, depending on the level of threats we receive," the official told reporters.
On December 15, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he had proposed to Russian President Vladimir Putin a prospective meeting between the presidents of Syria, Turkey, and Russia preceded by a meeting of the chiefs of security apparatuses and defense ministers.
But Syria has so far shown signs of prudence to the peace process when last week, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad said that any rapprochement with Ankara must lead to the end of the Turkish occupation in Syria.
Besides the fact that Turkey illegally controls several parts of northern Syria and has a number of military bases set up in the area, the Turkish government also backs local militias that fight against the Syrian government.
Gas supplies priority
Putin and Erdogan underlined that among the priorities of bilateral cooperation on the issues of Russian gas supplies, as well as the creation of a regional gas hub in Turkey, the Kremlin stressed.
"Both sides have confirmed their commitment to further comprehensive development of Russian-Turkish cooperation. Among the priorities are energy cooperation, including the supply of Russian natural gas and the creation of a regional gas hub in Turkey," Moscow added.
Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez announced earlier in the month that his country began working on the Russian-proposed gas hub project.
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"We intend to take advantage of this project, there are opportunities and terminals for this," Donmez stated in an interview with Turkish broadcast TVnet.
On October 12, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow could redirect gas transit from the Nord Stream pipelines, damaged by an explosion classified by Russia as an act of terrorism, to Turkey. Unprecedented damage was dealt to three out of four Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea.
Donmez stated then that Turkey and Russia have come to an agreement over creating a gas hub that will link the two through Europe, and Ankara has already started on its part of the work.
On October 14, Erdogan said the two leaders instructed relevant institutions of the two countries to quickly begin work on the idea of creating a hub in Turkey for gas supplies to Europe.
Ankara ready to mediate Russia-Ukraine peace
Erdogan told his Russian counterpart that Ankara was ready to play the role of a mediator to establish lasting peace between Moscow and Kiev.
"President Erdogan has confirmed that Turkey is ready to assume the role of moderator and mediator to establish lasting peace between Russia and Ukraine," the Turkish presidency noted.
This comes after a diplomatic source said told Sputnik that Erdogan intended to reiterate his country's goal to stop the war in Ukraine during a pre-scheduled phone conversation with Putin.
"In the coming year, President Erdogan intends to continue efforts to resume the negotiation process to achieve a ceasefire [in Ukraine]. With the ability to negotiate with the two sides, the Turkish president intends to continue offering his mediation. In this regard, today's telephone conversations will not be an exception," the source said.