Turkey, Russia start joint patrols in northern Syria

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Turkish and Russian troops are jointly patrolling a Syrian region under a deal that halted a Turkish incursion against Kurdish fighters. The patrols aim to check that all fighters have moved back from the Turkish border.

Turkish and Russian troops equipped with armored vehicles and drones began joint ground patrols in northeastern Syria on Friday, Turkey’s Defense Ministry tweeted.

The patrols are taking place under a deal struck by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, that requires Syrian Kurdish fighters to pull back 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the Turkish border.

The patrols aim to ensure the fighters have withdrawn and to secure the area. Russia has previously said the withdrawal is complete.

Fighting ‘terrorists’

The deal halted a Turkish offensive that began last month against the Kurdish fighters, whom Ankara considers to be terrorists linked to a Kurdish rebellion within Turkey. Turkey entered the area after US President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of US troops from the region earlier in October. The US decision was widely criticized, with many seeing it leaving the Kurdish fighters, who had been top US allies in the fight against extremist group “Islamic State” within Syria, at the mercy of a Turkish incursion.

Erdogan said on Wednesday that the troops would patrol to a depth of 7 kilometers inside Syrian territory. A ministry statement from Tuesday said the deal on the patrols excluded the city of Qamishli.

A first stop

UN sources say over 200,000 people have been internally displaced in Syria’s northeast since Turkey launched its offensive on October 9. So far, the border town of Ras al-Ayn has paid the highest toll in the wake of a joint attack by Turkish militias and airstrikes. The city will remain under Turkish control following a deal struck in Sochi between Russia and Turkey.

tj/rt (Reuters, AP)

DW

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