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Erdogan tells US, Russia to withdraw troops from Syria

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Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday said the United States and Russia which cooperate with Kurdish-led forces in Syria should pull out their troops from the civil war-stricken country.

"If no military solution is in question, then let [them] withdraw their soldier. The world [community] is not stupid. Turkey does not have troops there. They do," Erdogan told a presser at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport from where he embarked on an official trip to Russia.

Turkey has large military units embedded with Islamist rebels in a pocket of land west of the River Euphrates in northern Syria since its 2016 incursion against the Islamic State (IS) group to deny the US-backed Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) further territorial expansion.

Erdogan's comments came following a weekend statement from Moscow which stated that US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin agreed during a summit in Vietnam that there was no military solution to the conflict in Syria.

In Russia's Black Sea resort city of Sochi, the Turkish President is set to meet with Putin whose army holds presence in a military air base in Syria's Lattakia and Kurdish canton of Afrin, the latter repeatedly designated as a target by Erdogan.

He expressed dismay with the existence of US and Russian military installations used in the war against the IS in Syria and Washington's continued weapons shipments to the YPG.

Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency in July disclosed the location of a dozen US bases in Syrian Kurdistan, leading to an angry response from the Pentagon which said the leak put its soldiers’ lives at risk.

Afrin, the isolated enclave that has over 360 Kurdish villages in northwestern Syria, was once again on Erdogan's agenda.

"Among Afrin's demographic components, there are ethnic elements supportive of us, and those against us. We cannot turn a blind eye to disturbances from there," he said, adding he would raise the issue with Russians.

Erdogan also gave the 2003 American-led allied invasion of Iraq to topple the then dictator Saddam Hussein as an example of what he called "deceiving the world."

"We are the ones who know this region best," he said.

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