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Russia, Turkey reach 'historic' deal on Syria border

The two leaders met 'for hours' in Sochi [Getty]

Date of publication: 22 October, 2019

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A meeting between Turkey's Erdogan and Russia's Putin on Tuesday resulted in 'a historic agreement' between the two leaders.

Russia and Turkey agreed on Tuesday to ensure Kurdish forces withdraw from areas close to Syria's border with Turkey and to launch joint patrols. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hailed "a historic agreement" with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin after hours of talks between the two leaders over the conflict in Syria.

The agreement cements Russia and Turkey's roles as the main foreign players in Syria, after US President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of American forces from the country's north earlier this month.

"According to this agreement, Turkey and Russia will not allow any separatist agenda on Syrian territory," Erdogan said, addressing reporters alongside Putin after the talks in the Russian city of Sochi.

Erdogan also announced a 150-hour deadline beginning on Wednesday for Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters and their weapons to be moved back 30 kilometres from the Turkish border.

"Within 150 hours starting at 1200 noon on October 23, YPG terrorists and their weapons will be removed to the depth of 30 kilometres and their ... positions will be destroyed," Erdogan said. 

He added that after the deadline, Turkish and Russian joint patrols would start in two zones stretching 10 km to the east and west of the area of Turkey's current Operation Peace Spring.

"All YPG terrorists in Tal Firat and Manbij will be removed outside this region, together with their weaponry," he said. 

Erdogan also said both countries would take necessary measures against "terrorist infiltrations" and create a "joint mechanism" to coordinate the agreement. 

  

Russia and Turkey have emerged as the main foreign players in Syria's conflict, with Moscow's position strengthened after US President Donald Trump announced this month he would be withdrawing American forces from the north of the country.

The announcement cleared the way for Turkey to launch a cross-border offensive on October 9 against the Kurdish YPG militia, viewed by Ankara as "terrorists" linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

The assault sparked Western outrage and accusations of betrayal from the Kurds, whose frontline fighters were crucial in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria.

Russia moves in

Russia is a crucial ally of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and has demanded that Turkey respect the country's territorial integrity.

As the US troops began to withdraw last week, Russian forces moved in to support the Syrian army, whose help against Turkey was requested by the Kurds.

Erdogan said last week he was not bothered by the Damascus regime's return as what mattered to Ankara was pushing back the Kurdish fighters from the proposed 32-kilometre-deep (20-mile) safe zone.

Despite being on the opposite sides of the Syria conflict, Turkey and Russia have been working together to find a solution to the war. 

Ankara says the YPG is a "terrorist" offshoot of the PKK, which has been waging an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984. The PKK is blacklisted as a terrorist group by Ankara, the United States and the European Union.

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