Turkish, Russian troops begin patrols in northern Syria to withdraw Kurdish fighters

Source:AFP Published: 2019/11/1 22:28:42

A handout picture provided by Turkish Defense Minister press office shows Turkish armed heavy vehicles patrol with Russian troops (not pictured), in the Darbasiyah district of Hasakah, in Northern Syria, on Friday. Photo: IC

Turkish troops on Friday began joint patrols with Russian forces in northern Syria as part of a deal to ensure the withdrawal of Kurdish fighters from the border.

The patrols began at around midday in a village in the Al-Darbasiyah region, an AFP journalist reported from the Turkish side of the border where government officials had invited reporters to witness the event.

The soldiers headed to the east of Al-Darbasiyah in a convoy of Turkish and Russian military vehicles to patrol a strip of territory several dozen kilometers long, according to Turkish military sources.

The Russian army said in a statement that the convoy consisted of nine vehicles, protected by an armored personnel carrier, and that it would cover more than 110 kilometers.

The Turkish defense ministry confirmed in a tweet that the patrols "with ground and air units are underway."

The ministry said in a separate tweet that a meeting with a Russian military delegation was planned in Ankara to discuss "tactical and technical issues."

Kurdish forces were given a 150-hour deadline to withdraw from a band of territory along the border, under an agreement hammered out in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi last week after Turkey's cross-border offensive into Syria. The deadline expired on Tuesday evening.

As a result of the Sochi deal and another pact with the US reached a few days earlier, Turkey halted the offensive it had launched against Kurdish forces on October 9.

On Tuesday Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Russia had informed Turkey that Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) fighters had withdrawn as planned.

However, Erdogan's office said that Turkey wanted to verify the withdrawal through the joint patrols. 

Turkey intends to set up a "safe zone" 30 miles deep into Syrian territory.


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