Russia, Turkey reach ‘historic’ deal on Syria border

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(Sochi) – Russia and Turkey agreed to ensure Kurdish forces withdraw from areas close to Syria´s border with Turkey and to launch joint patrols, in a deal hailed as “historic” by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

After marathon talks in Russia´s southern city of Sochi, Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin announced the deal just hours ahead of a deadline for Turkey to restart its assault on Syrian Kurdish forces.

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.

That 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).

Turkey has seized control of a “safe zone” inside Syria about 120 kilometres long (75 miles) and 32 kilometres (20 miles) deep.

Tuesday´s agreement with Moscow will see it preserve that zone between the towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain, giving Ankara a crucial presence inside the country.

From noon (0900 GMT) on Wednesday, Russian military police and Syrian border guards will “facilitate the removal” of Kurdish fighters and their weapons from within 30 kilometres (18 miles) of the border outside the zone.

This withdrawal must be finalised within 150 hours, according to a text of the agreement released after the talks.

Russian and Turkish forces will then begin joint patrols along the Turkish-controlled zone.

Putin said the decisions were “very important, if not crucial, to allowing us to resolve the acute situation on the Syrian-Turkish border.”