November 1, 2018 / 4:43 PM / 4 months ago

UPDATE 1-Trump and Erdogan discuss northern Syria - Turkish presidency

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ISTANBUL, Nov 1 (Reuters) - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and U.S. President Donald Trump discussed Manbij and Idlib in northern Syria in a call on Thursday and stressed their determination to strengthen ties, Erdogan’s office said.

Turkish and U.S. forces began joint patrols on Thursday in the Manbij region, a source of friction in recent years after Kurdish forces took part of the area in a U.S.-backed offensive to drive out Islamic State in 2016.

“Our President and U.S. President Trump stressed their determination to take constructive steps towards strengthening U.S.-Turkey bilateral relations further,” the statement said, while also referring to developments in Syria’s Idlib region.

Turkey, which has long backed rebels seeking to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and Russia, Assad’s principal foreign ally, brokered a deal in September to create a demilitarised zone in Idlib.

U.S.-Turkish relations have been strained by disputes over Syria, Iran and Ankara’s planned purchase of Russian military equipment. Prospects of improving ties rose last month after a Turkish court freed a U.S. pastor from two years of detention.

Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz and Ezgi Erkoyun, Writing by Sarah Dadouch, Editing by Dominic Evans, Richard Balmforth

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