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Turkey, Russia broker deal on further withdrawal of YPG

October 22, 2019

They also agreed that Turkish and Russian troops will carry out joint patrols. They said that they would give Kurdish fighters 150 more hours to withdraw further from the Turkey-Syria border region.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan und Vladimir Putin
Image: Reuters/S. Chirikov

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a joint news conference with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Tuesday that the two leaders had agreed to a further withdrawal of Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters 30 kilometers (18 miles) away from the border region within 150 hours.

A US-brokered five-day ceasefire is currently in effect to allow the Kurds to pull back from a border area after Turkey's incursion into northeastern Syria. Earlier on Tuesday, the YPG had completed its obligations for this deal. They have not yet confirmed if they will adhere to the Russian-Turkish agreement to pull back further.

Erdogan said that this would allow for Turkish troops to destroy Kurdish fortifications and camps.

In a statement early on Wednesday, Turkey's Defense Ministry said it had been informed by the US that the withdrawal of Kurdish fighters from the border areas had been "completed." They added that there was no need to start a new offensive outside the current area.

 "At this stage, there is no further need to carry out a new operation," ministry said.

Karte Syrien EN

Turkey and Russia also announced that they would carry out joint patrols of the Turkey-Syria border area, as Moscow aims to become a stronger power broker in the Middle East.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hailed the deal, saying it would end the bloodshed in the region. He added that Erdogan agreed to the "importance of territorial integrity in Syria."

Lavrov added that the deal implies the end of the Turkish offensive.

176,000 displaced

Moscow has long been an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose forces have entered Kurdish-held Syria for the first time in years after the United States pulled out its troops, allowing the Turkish incursion and prompting the YPG-led Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) to call on their former foe for backup.

Russia said that Putin had called Assad to inform him of the deal, with both sides confirming that the Syrian regime supported the agreement.

Two weeks ago, US President Donald Trump announced the surprise withdrawal of US forces from Kurdish Syria, effectively abandoning a key ally in the fight against "Islamic State" (IS) terrorists. The US decision enabled Turkey to fulfill Erdogan's long-held desire to fight the Kurds, as some armed Kurdish groups have waged an on-and-off insurgency in Turkey.

The Turkish offensive into northeastern Syria has already displaced 176,000 people, the UN said on Tuesday. Having to turn their attention to Turkish troops has also prompted the SDF to abandon guarding IS prisoners, allowing hundreds of IS fighters and their families to escape.

rs, es/se (AP, Reuters, AFP)