NEW YORK (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday Turkey will deploy troops in Syria’s northern Idlib region as part of a so-called de-escalation agreement brokered by Russia last month.
The “de-escalation” zones, agreed by Turkey, Russia and Iran, would be further discussed in talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during his trip to Ankara next week, Erdogan said in an interview with Reuters while he was in New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly.
“Under the agreement, Russians are maintaining security outside Idlib and Turkey will maintain the security inside Idlib region,” Erdogan said.
“The task is not easy … With Putin we will discuss additional steps needed to be taken in order to eradicate terrorists once and for all to restore peace.”
Erdogan also said Turkey was considering counter-measures, including imposing sanctions, against Kurdish northern Iraq over a planned referendum.
Iraqi Kurdish authorities have defied growing international pressure to call off the referendum on independence. Iraq’s neighbors fear it will fuel unrest among their own Kurdish populations and Western allies said it could detract from the fight against Islamic State.
Turkey has brought forward a cabinet meeting and national security council session to Friday over the referendum, Erdogan said. He said that parliament would also convene for an extraordinary meeting on Saturday.
“Without any further delay we are going to discuss what kind of sanctions should be imposed and when the sanctions will be imposed,” he said without elaborating on what they might be.
Turkish troops are also carrying out military exercises near the border and Erdogan said on Saturday the resolution on troop deployment abroad will be submitted to parliament for a vote.
Erdogan called on the United States to extradite U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdogan accuses of orchestrating a failed coup attempt in Turkey, in which rogue soldiers commandeered tanks and fighter jets, bombing parliament and trying to abduct or kill Erdogan.
Gulen denies any involvement in the July 2016 coup attempt, during which more than 240 people were killed.
“Gulen’s entire network is being run from the United States. Terrorists should not be harbored here. We need U.S. assistance on this matter,” Erdogan said.
Since the failed coup, Turkish authorities have shut more than 130 media outlets and a press union says more than 150 journalists have been jailed, raising concerns about media freedom in Turkey.
Turkey has also suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants and has arrested nearly 50,000 others suspected of links to the Gulen movement.