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Turkish ministers to travel to Russia to discuss situation in Syria: Report

Turkish delegation's visit to Russia comes about week after Donald Trump said he intends to pull US troops out of Syria
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu will join delegation to Moscow (Reuters/File photo)

Several top Turkish officials are expected to travel to Russia this weekend to discuss the situation in Syria, the country's state-run news agency reported on Wednesday.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and Turkish intelligence chief Hakan Fidan will be in Moscow on Saturday, said Turkey's Justice and Development Party (AKP) spokesman Omer Celik, as reported by Anadolu news agency.

Ibrahim Kalin, the spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will also join the delegation, Anadolu reported.

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The Turkish officials' visit to Russia, which has been a staunch defender of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his forces, comes about a week after US President Donald Trump said he intends to pull about 2,000 US troops out of Syria.

The snap decision led to the resignation of US defence chief James Mattis and angered some of Washington's closest allies in Europe, yet it has also left Turkey vowing to take up the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group in the war-torn country.

The US president's announcement also came ahead of an expected Turkish military operation against US-backed Kurdish fighters in the country's north.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) received backing from Washington in their fight against IS in Syria.

Ankara, however, views the group as an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a war against the Turkish state for decades and which Turkey considers a terrorist group.

Earlier this week, Kalin, Erdogan's spokesman, said the US withdrawal would not disrupt the fight against IS in Syria and would not allow the group to retake any territory in the country.

"As part of the global coalition to defeat [IS], we would like to express again that we will not allow such a thing to happen on Syrian soil, Iraqi soil or Turkish soil," Kalin told a news conference in Ankara on Monday.

At the time, he said Turkey would increase its coordination with Russia in Syria.

Russia has provided military backing to Assad's forces in the ongoing war in Syria, while Turkey has supported groups fighting against the Syrian government.

Also on Wednesday, Russia's foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Moscow would coordinate its actions in Syria with Ankara.

"We closely coordinate our views and the implementation of a concrete policy in Syria with our Turkish colleagues, both in foreign policy and in military counter-terrorist operations on the ground," she said during a news conference, as reported by Anadolu.

On Monday, Kalin also announced that an American military delegation would visit Turkey later this week to discuss the US withdrawal.

"They will discuss how to coordinate [the withdrawal] with their counterparts," he said.

Shortly after announcing the pullout of US troops from Syria, Trump said he had discussed the decision with Erdogan in a telephone call.

The US president tweeted that the leaders had "a long and productive call" that also included a discussion about IS and expanding trade between Washington and Ankara.