Turkey and Russia Agree to Create ‘Safe Zone’ in Syria

(MEE— Turkey and Russia have reached an agreement that will see the withdrawal of Syrian-Kurdish forces from areas along the Turkish border, a move that comes after thousands were displaced in a Turkish offensive in northern Syria.

In a joint statement released on Tuesday, the countries said that fighters belonging to the predominantly Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia would pull back about 30km from the Turkish border.

Speaking after a meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said joint Russian-Turkish patrols are also expected to take place in northern Syrian within 10km of the border.

Those patrols, which are set to begin at noon local time (09.00 GMT) on Wednesday, aim “to facilitate the removal of YPG elements and their weapons”, the statement said.

Last week, Turkey agreed to pause its offensive against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria at Washington’s behest, giving time for the YPG to clear out of the Turkish-Syrian border region.

Ankara launched its assault there two weeks ago after Washington announced it would withdraw its forces from the area, a move widely seen as an abandonment of its Syrian-Kurdish allies who had previously led the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group.

Ankara views the YPG an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state and is designated as a terrorist group by several countries.

“The main aim of the operation is to take out PKK/YPG terror organisations from the area and to facilitate the return of Syrian refugees,” Erdogan said on Tuesday at a joint news conference with Putin.

Erdogan also said that YPG forces will leave the towns of Tel Rifaat and Manbij.

“This operation also guarantees Syria’s territorial integrity and political unity… We never had any interest in Syria’s land and sovereignty,” the Turkish president added.

By MEE and agencies Republished with permission / Middle East Eye / Report a typo

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