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Russia denies targeting Turkish troops in Al-Bab, Syria

Deputy PM Numan Kurtulmus says it was not Russian jets which attacked Turkish soldiers last week

Russia denies targeting Turkish troops in Al-Bab, Syria

By Ayse Humeyra Atilgan


Turkey's deputy prime minister said Monday that it was not Russian jets which carried out a deadly attack on Turkish troops last week close to the northern Syrian city of Al-Bab.

"Russia has confirmed directly, by Mr. [President Vladimir] Putin, that the jets which conducted that attack did not belong to them," Numan Kurtulmus said after a Cabinet meeting in the capital Ankara.

On Nov. 24, three Turkish soldiers were martyred and 10 wounded in an air attack which the Turkish military said was carried out by Syrian regime forces.

The troops were in the region as part of the ongoing Operation Euphrates Shield, launched by Turkey in late August to rid the northern Syrian border area of terrorists.

Kurtulmus said they would take necessary steps after all air travel data have been analyzed.

Stating that Turkey is following all developments in Syria, he referred to the priorities in Operation Euphrates Shield.

"The most significant thing is to clear the 5,000-square kilometer area of Daesh."

Number two, he said, is the advance of the PKK/PYD terrorist organization in Afrin and Manbij west of the Euphrates River.

Turkish authorities have repeatedly said that the PYD must vacate the west bank of the Euphrates and warned allies about the PYD's goals in the region.

A PYD advance would harm Turkey's national interests in the region, Kurtulmus said and stressed Ankara’s determination on the matter.

Developments on new draft constitution

Kurtulmus also talked about ongoing work on a new draft constitution and how the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party had sent it to the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

"The MHP is working on the technical details and will deliver an official reply to AK Party soon," he said.

The need for a new constitution has been much discussed of late, including the long-debated presidential system.

The government has been seeking to replace the current parliamentary system with a presidential one, saying there are flaws in the system that hold back Turkey’s development.

The opposition MHP has showed support for the new constitution, which is to be submitted to parliament in the coming weeks after the parties' negotiations.

The proposed changes will later be put to a public referendum even if the government gets the necessary votes in parliament to avoid the need for one.

Kurtulmus said currently the number of deputies in parliament who are expected to vote in favor is above 330 – the number of MPs needed to take the issue to a referendum.

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