November 30, 2016 / 8:12 PM / 3 years ago

Turkey needed detente with Russia to pursue Syria operation: minister

Turkish armoured personnel carriers drive towards the border in Karkamis on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern Gaziantep province, Turkey, August 27, 2016. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey would not so easily have been able to carry out its military offensive in Syria without “positive developments” in its relations with Russia, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli said on Wednesday.

Turkey restored strained ties with Russia in August, the same month in which it sent tanks and special forces into Syria in support of Turkmen and Arab rebels fighting Islamic State, in an operation dubbed “Euphrates Shield”.

“We could not have moved so comfortably in the Euphrates Shield operation if it weren’t for the positive developments with Russia,” Canikli told TGRT television.

But he said Turkey had not strayed from its “core policies” in Syria despite productive talks between Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, who have held a series of phone calls this week.

Russia is a main backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey supports the rebels fighting to oust him, but the two have been trying to find common ground on Syria since their rapprochement almost four months ago.

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Writing by Nick Tattersall

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