Russian Forces Arrive In Syria's Kobani After Moscow-Ankara Deal
By RFE/RL October 23, 2019
Russia says a convoy of its military police has crossed the Euphrates River and entered the Syrian border town of Kobani to start patrols under a new agreement with Turkey.
"The Russian military police met with members of the local administration to discuss interaction in the accomplishment of their missions," the Russian Defense Ministry said on October 23 in a statement published by state media.
The move comes a day after Moscow and Ankara agreed to a deal aimed at keeping Kurdish forces away from Syria's border with Turkey.
Under the agreement, Russian and Syrian forces will oversee the withdrawal of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia and their weapons from within 30 kilometers of the border.
The withdrawal must be finalized within 150 hours.
Russia and Turkey will eventually launch joint patrols along the "safe zone."
The deal was announced after talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi.
It came during a pause in the Turkish military operation aimed at driving Kurdish fighters, whom Turkey regards as terrorists, away from Turkey's border.
A five-day cease-fire brokered by Washington expired on October 22.
Speaking from the White House on October 23, U.S. President Donald Trump said that Turkey had informed him that the cease-fire was being made permanent and that "we've saved the lives of many, many Kurds."
Referring to his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the region, Trump said that "we're getting out" of the region but added that a small number of U.S. troops would remain in the oil-producing areas of Syria.
"Let someone else fight over this long bloodstained sand,” said Trump, who added that sanctions against Turkey would be lifted "unless something happens that we are not happy with." The U.S. Treasury minutes later confirmed the lifting of sanctions against the Turkish ministries of Defense and Energy.
Earlier, Trump tweeted that the creation of a "safe zone" on the Turkey-Syria border was a "big success."
"Ceasefire has held and combat missions have ended. Kurds are safe and have worked very nicely with us," he tweeted.
In his comments. Trump added that some Islamic State (IS) fighters had escaped but that most had been recaptured. Minutes earlier, however, the U.S. envoy in the fight against IS said that more than 100 prisoners had escaped.
"We would say the number is now over 100. We do not know where they are," James Jeffrey told the House Foreign Affairs Committee when asked about the detainees.
Ankara had threatened to relaunch its offensive but said late in the evening that "at this stage, there is no further need to conduct a new operation outside the present operation area."
Meanwhile, the Kremlin said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad voiced support for the Russia-Turkey agreement during a phone call.
In Tehran, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi called the deal a "positive step."
"Iran welcomes any steps that will bring security and calm to Syria and to secure the country's integrity," Musavi said.
Speaking to reporters in Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said it was "too early" to determine whether the agreement will be helpful in bringing peace to the region.
Stoltenberg stressed the "urgent need for a political solution" to the Syrian conflict, ahead of an October 24-25 NATO defense ministers meeting during which Turkey's widely criticized incursion into northern Syria will be on the agenda.
U.S. President Donald Trump called the creation of a "safe zone" on the Turkey-Syria border a "big success."
"Ceasefire has held and combat missions have ended. Kurds are safe and have worked very nicely with us," he tweeted, adding that he would make remarks on the conflict in Syria later in the day.
Russia and Iran have provided crucial support for Assad in the country's more than eight-year civil war, while Turkey and the United States have backed differing rebel groups.
The United States and Turkey have backed different antigovernment forces, while Turkey has backed differing rebel groups.
With reporting by AP, Reuters, dpa, and the BBC
Copyright (c) 2019. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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