(October 23, 2019 / JNS) Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced on Tuesday that Turkey and Russia had reached a “historic” agreement that would remove all Syrian Kurdish fighters from the Syria-Turkey border region. The announcement came following six hours of talks between Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Russian city of Sochi, Russia.
“According to this agreement, Turkey and Russia will not allow any separatist agenda on Syrian territory,” said Erdoğan, speaking alongside Putin at a press conference following the meeting.
Within 150 hours, starting at noon on Oct. 23, said Erdoğan, “YPG [People’s Protection Units] terrorists and their weapons will be removed to the depth of 30 kilometers and their … positions will be destroyed.” He added that after the one-week deadline, joint Turkish and Russian patrols would start in two zones stretching six miles to the east and west of the area of Turkey’s current “Operation Peace Spring.”
The purpose of the Turkish offensive in northern Syria, according to Turkey, is to create a “safe zone” along the Syria-Turkey border free of Kurdish fighters, particularly those belonging to the YPG militia, which Turkey views as a terrorist organization.
More than 1,000 Islamic State prisoners have been released by Turkish-backed proxy forces with ties to extremist groups since the Turkish incursion, which started on Oct. 9, shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump announced that he would be pulling U.S. forces out of Syria. In the days since, more than 200,000 people have fled the area, and some 200 civilians have been killed.
A 120-hour ceasefire brokered by the United States to give Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces time to pull back expired on Tuesday evening, though Turkey says claims there is now “no need” to re-launch its offensive.
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