Erdogan says discussed Syria with Putin, Obama

AFP , Thursday 15 Dec 2016

Putin, Erdogan
This file photo taken on October 10, 2016 shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) talking with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during the opening ceremony of the 23rd World Energy Congress in Istanbul, Turkey (Photo: AFP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday that he discussed the situation in Syria's Aleppo "several times" with his Russian and US counterparts Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama.

Erdogan's statement came as hundreds of civilians and rebels left eastern Aleppo on Thursday under an evacuation deal negotiated by Russia and Turkey that has effectively handed back control of rebel areas of the city to the Moscow-backed regime.

"During the Aleppo ceasefire and evacuation process, first I spoke with Mr Putin many times," Erdogan told reporters.

He said he also spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel by phone, to discuss how Berlin could provide assistance to people in the north Syrian city.

The German leader said her government "was ready to help in any way regarding humanitarian aid," the Turkish president said, without specifying when exactly they had spoken.

Erdogan added that he had a "long call" with Obama earlier, during which they discussed both Syria and Iraq.

"He asked how he could help (in Syria) and I told him how," he said, without elaborating.

Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif six times on Thursday.

While Turkey has been a key backer of the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Iran has supported the regime.

Erdogan added that approximately 1,150 civilians and wounded had been evacuated from rebel-held eastern Aleppo and arrived in the neighbouring province of Idlib.

The evacuation is part of a ceasefire deal initially agreed on Tuesday, which collapsed after renewed clashes but was revived late Wednesday.

It comes after months of bombardment followed by a fierce regime offensive, supported by Russian warplanes and Iran-backed militias.

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