Russian military police arrive in northeastern Syria

Russian military police arrive in northeastern Syria
3 min read
23 October, 2019
A historic deal between Ankara and Moscow has reshaped the map of northeastern Turkey, forcing Kurdish forces from the region and establishing Turkish control there.
Russian and Turkish police will patrol the safe zone together as per their agreement. [Getty]
Russian military police have arrived in the strategic Syrian city of Kobane on Wednesday as the Russian army heads towards the northeast of the country, Reuters reported.

Moscow warned the Kurds that they would face the full force of the Turkish army if they refused to leave the region.

A deal between Moscow and Ankara has resulted in Turkish control of the northeastern part of Syria, from where the Kurdish militias must withdraw or risk a resumption of hostilities.

The agreement signed on Tuesday in Sochi requires Kurdish militias to pull back to a line 30 kilometres from the border along its entire length (440 kilometres), forcing them to relinquish control of some of their main urban centres.

Read more: Never mind Khashoggi's murder? Kushner, Trump administration officials to attend Saudi 'Davos in the Desert'

The arrival of the police in Kobani has marked the beginning of the period when the Russian and Syrian security forces will oversee the removal of the YPG (People's Protection Units) Kurdish militia at least 30 km into Syria as per the deal struck by Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Kurdish groups have now lost almost all the land they once controlled to Turkey, and a complete withdrawal of the YPG would mark a victory for the Turkish forces and Erdogan.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov was blunt in warning the Kurdish forces, saying that if they did not withdraw, the "remaining Kurdish formations would then fall under the weight of the Turkish army."

The withdrawal, according to AFP, must be finalised within 150 hours.

Kurds dream of self-rule shattered

[click to enlarge]

The Turkey-Russia agreement was reached after-6 hour-long talks between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia on Tuesday. 

The deal will see Turkey preserve a "safe zone" inside Syria that is around 120 km long and 32 km deep. The creation of such a safe zone was the objective of Turkey's military offensive, and will turn to reality following the Kurdish forces' withdrawal. Russia and Turkey will eventually launch joint patrols along the zone.

US President Donald Trump has called the deal struck between Turkey and Russia as a "big success". He has come under fire from both at home and abroad for abruptly withdrawing US troops from northern Syria, opening the door for Turkey's military offensive against the Kurdish militias.

Hundreds demonstrated against the Sochi agreement in the Kurdish-controlled city of Qalishli – a city that was excluded from the deal – saying it amounted to ethnic cleansing and genocide.

"This deal serves the interests of foreign powers and not the interests of the people," said an official with the Kurdish administration Talaat Youndes, according to AFP.

"Turkey's objective is to kill, displace and occupy the Kurds," he said.

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

Tuesday's agreement said the two states were determined "to combat terrorism in all forms... and to disrupt separatist agendas in Syrian territory".

The deal said efforts would also be launched for the return of refugees to Syria "in a safe and voluntary manner".

Ankara has said some of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey can be rehoused inside the safe zone.

Follow us on Twitter: @The_NewArab