Erdogan, Putin uphold territorial integrity of Iraq, Syria

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday that both Turkey and Russia uphold the territorial integrity of Iraq and Syria.

“One should prevent the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) from making worse mistakes after the referendum,” Erdogan said at a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, referring to the recent independence referendum held by the KRG.

“The referendum is not legitimate for neither the Iraqi constitution nor the international law,” Erdogan said.

“We need to protect the Iraqi central government in order to assist them in safeguarding the country’s sovereignty,” he added.

The Turkish president also accused the Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani of acting for his “short term individual interests.”

Putin, for his part, referred to a Russian Foreign Ministry’s statement which expressed respect for the national aspirations of the Kurds but stressed the territorial integrity of Iraq.

The two leaders held a three-hour meeting late Thursday at the presidential compound in Ankara, where they discussed topics related to the bilateral relations and the latest regional developments, especially the Syrian and Iraqi issues.

The Turkey-Russia ties have grown closer recently as Ankara’s relations with the United States and Europe are strained because of differences on human rights amid the West’s criticism of Erdogan’s crackdown on dissidents following last year’s failed coup.

Despite being a NATO member, Turkey signed a deal recently with Russia to buy the S-400 air-defense systems, a move that has upset the U.S. and other NATO allies.

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