POST TIME: 2 November, 2019 00:00 00 AM
Turkey begins joint patrols with Russia in N Syria
AFP, Derbasiyeh, Syria

Turkey begins joint patrols with Russia in N Syria

Turkish army vehicles parked on a road yesterday waiting to patrol during the first ground combined joint patrol inside the security mechanism area in northeast Syria, between the Turkish town of Nusaybin and the Syrian town of Dirbesi. AFP photo

Turkey started joint patrols with Russia in northern Syria yesterday to verify whether Kurdish forces have withdrawn from a key border zone in compliance with a deal reached between the two governments.

The patrols, which began just before noon (1000 GMT), follow an agreement they signed in the Black Sea resort of Sochi last week which gave Kurdish forces 150 hours to withdraw from a band of territory along the border, in a process that Russia said was now complete.

They add to the complicated mix of forces operating along the frontier, including US troops who patrolled an eastern section on Thursday for the first time since US President Donald Trump said last month the troops were withdrawing.

The patrols on Friday began near the border town of Derbasiyeh, from which Kurdish fighters have already pulled out, an AFP correspondent on the Turkish side of the border reported.

The soldiers headed to the east of Derbasiyeh in a convoy of Turkish and Russian military vehicles to patrol a strip of territory several dozen kilometres long, according to Turkish military sources. The Russian army said in a statement that the convoy consisted of nine vehicles, protected by an armoured personnel carrier, and that it would cover more than 110 kilometres (68 miles).

The Turkish defence ministry confirmed in a tweet that the patrols “with ground and air units are underway”.

The ministry said in a separate tweet that a meeting with a Russian military delegation was planned in Ankara to discuss “tactical and technical issues”. Last week’s Sochi agreement halted a Turkish operation lauched against Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria on October 9, which left hundreds dead and prompted tens of thousands to flee their homes.

Under the deal, Turkey is to assume control over one 120 kilometre (75 mile) wide section in the centre of the border, while Syrian government forces are to deploy to the east and west.