artk
Tue, Nov 19, 2019 5:44 PM
Sat, Nov 02, 2019 3:03

Turkey begins joint patrol with Russia in northern Syria

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Turkey started joint patrols with Russia in northern Syria on Friday to verify whether Kurdish forces have withdrawn from a key border zone in compliance with a deal reached between Ankara and Moscow.

Turkey started joint patrols with Russia in northern Syria on Friday to verify whether Kurdish forces have withdrawn from a key border zone in compliance with a deal reached between Ankara and Moscow.

The patrols follow an agreement they signed in the Black Sea resort of Sochi last week which gave Kurdish forces 150 hours to withdraw from a band of territory along Syria’s border with Turkey, in a process that Russia said was now complete.

The patrols add to the complicated mix of forces operating along the frontier, including US troops who patrolled an eastern section on Thursday for the first time since US President Donald Trump said last month his country’s troops were withdrawing.

The patrols on Friday began near the border town of Derbasiyeh — from which Kurdish fighters have already pulled out — and ended at 1315 GMT, a correspondent on the Turkish side of the border reported.

The soldiers had headed to the east of Derbasiyeh in a convoy of Turkish and Russian military vehicles to patrol a strip of territory several dozen kilometres long, according to Turkish military sources.

The Russian army said in a statement that the convoy consisted of nine vehicles, protected by an armoured personnel carrier, covering more than 110 kilometres (68 miles).

A correspondent in Derbasiyeh said the vehicles did not fly Turkish or Russian flags, in line with a request by Moscow.

The Turkish defence ministry had earlier confirmed in a tweet that the patrols with ground and air units were “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”.

Last week’s Sochi agreement halted a Turkish operation launched against Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria on October 9, which left hundreds dead and prompted tens of thousands to flee their homes.

Under the deal, Turkey is to assume control over one 120 kilometre wide section in the centre of the border, while Syrian government forces are to deploy to the east and west. Along the whole length of the border, a 10-kilometre-deep buffer zone is to be created on the Syrian side which will be jointly patrolled by Russian and Turkish troops.

Turkey intends to set up a “safe zone” 30 kilometres deep, in which some of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees it is hosting could be resettled.