Syria offensive: Turkey, Russia strike deal over Kurds
23 October 2019
Turkey and Russia have agreed what they called a "historic" deal aimed at keeping Kurdish forces away from Syria's border with Turkey, a development that gives Turkey effective control of Syria’s border areas captured in the recent offensive.
Turkey has seized a 120km-long strip of land between the towns of Ras al-Ain to Tal Abyad to create a "safe zone" to resettle up to two million refugees currently in Turkey. Turkish-backed Syrian rebels are now in control of the border town of Tal Abyad.
The deal between Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who have backed opposing sides in Syria's civil war, was facilitated by the Turkish invasion of Syria after the US announced a sudden and unexpected withdrawal.
This means Turkey retaining control over areas gained at the expense of the Kurds while for Russia its forces alongside Syria's will oversee the rest.
Russia, an ally of Syria's Bashar al-Assad will now conduct joint patrols on the border along with Turkish forces.
The deal seems to have effectively ended Turkish offensive in Syria. Turkey said there was no need to re-launch its offensive, which was on hold due to a ceasefire, as Kurdish fighters had withdrawn from the Turkish "safe zone".
Russia has agreed to allow Turkey's operation, removing the risk of conflict between the two sides. The statement from Russia and Turkey says that Kurdish forces "will be removed" from the towns of Manbij and Tal Rifat - both of which lie outside the operation area.
The Kurds have been given another 150 hours to withdraw to a depth of 32km (20 miles) from the border. Kurdish militias have yet to indicate whether they will agree to those demands.
Under the plan, Russia will conduct joint patrols with Turkey in parts of northern Syria to ensure that Kurdish forces do not return to areas close to Syria's border with Turkey. They will begin on Wednesday.
Joint Russian and Syrian patrols in areas where Turkish forces do not operate will also begin on Wednesday.
The announcement came after talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan
Assad thanked President Putin and "expressed his full support for the results of the work as well as the readiness of the Syrian border guards, together with the Russian military police, to reach the Syrian-Turkish border," the Kremlin said.
Russia had earlier stationed troops near the border over concerns that Syria's territory was being encroached upon by a foreign power.
The UN says more than 176,000 people, including almost 80,000 children, have been displaced in the past two weeks in north-east Syria, which is home to some three million people.
Some 120 civilians have been killed in the battle, along with 259 Kurdish fighters, 196 Turkish-backed Syrian rebels and seven Turkish soldiers, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a UK-based monitoring group.
Twenty civilians have also been killed in attacks by the YPG on Turkish territory, Turkish officials say.