Turkey welcomes Russia-US Syria truce plan: foreign ministry

Turkish troops drive their tanks on the road near the Syrian village of al-Waqf on Sept 4, 2016.
Turkish troops drive their tanks on the road near the Syrian village of al-Waqf on Sept 4, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

ISTANBUL (AFP) - Turkey, which has sent dozens of tanks and hundreds of troops into Syria in an unprecedented incursion, on Saturday (Sept 10) welcomed a deal agreed by the United States and Russia for a ceasefire in its conflict-torn neighbour.

"We welcome the agreement," the foreign ministry said in a statement, saying it was essential that fighting was halted across Syria and humanitarian aid reaches those in need "from the first day" of the ceasefire on the Islamic Eid al-Adha holiday starting Monday.

The statement said that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had "closely followed" the process to secure the ceasefire, following talks with Russian and US counterparts Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama on the sidelines of the G20 in China.

It said Turkey was already making preparations for the delivery of humanitarian aid to Turkey's northern Aleppo province and would make efforts to "ensure the effective implementation" of the ceasefire.

Turkey and Russia have been on opposing sides of the conflict, with Ankara backing the opposition seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad and Moscow his key international supporter.

But there have been signs of greater harmony between Ankara and Moscow on Syria since a June deal to normalise their own ties following the crisis over the shooting down of a Russian war plane.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke to Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov late Friday ahead of the announcement of the deal, both sides said.

"They expressed mutual understanding of the importance of all parties concerned complying with the cessation of hostilities and the resumption of the inter-Syrian negotiation process," the Russian foreign ministry said.

The Russia-US agreement came as Turkey presses on with its Operation Euphrates Shield in Syria, which is aimed at pushing both Islamic State (IS) jihadists and Kurdish militia out of the Syrian border area.

Lavrov said the United States and Russia have agreed to carry out joint air strikes against "terrorists" in Syria if the ceasefire holds for a week.

Washington has applauded Turkey's actions against IS but is wary of its assault on the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia, which has been a US ally in the fight against the jihadists.