Tuesday, May 17, 2022
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Russia says Kurds complete withdrawal from Turkish border

Russia’s defense minister said Tuesday that Syrian Kurdish fighters have completed their withdrawal from areas along the Syrian border, in line with a recent Russia-Turkey deal. Sergei Shoigu said Russian and Syrian troops have moved into the border zone following the Kurdish withdrawal.

Separately, a Russian military statement said an explosive device went off near Russian armored vehicles near the Darbasiyah border checkpoint, but there were no injuries or damage.

Last week’s Russia-Turkey deal to divide control of northeast Syria has halted the Turkish invasion of the area. Ankara aimed to drive out Syrian Kurdish forces there.

Shortly after the Turkish operation inside Syria had started, a convoy of Turkish forces vehicles is driven through the town of Akcakale, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, at the border between Turkey and Syria, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. Turkey launched a military operation Wednesday against Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria after U.S. forces pulled back from the area, with a series of airstrikes hitting a town on Syria’s northern border. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

The Kurdish-led forces had been U.S. allies during a five-year campaign against the Islamic State group in Syria. But U.S. forces withdrew from the area, allowing the Turkish offensive. The Kurds have since turned to Russia and the Syrian government in Damascus for protection.

Moscow and Ankara have agreed that Turkey gets to retain control over the areas it seized when it launched its offensive on Oct. 9. Russian and Syrian troops will control the rest of the frontier.

Russia and Turkey are set to conduct joint patrols of areas east and west of the Turkish-held parts of the border area.

Later Tuesday, Turkey’s communications director Fahrettin Altun tweeted that his country’s forces would verify whether the Syrian Kurdish fighters had withdrawn once those joint patrols begin.

Turkey’s Defense Ministry didn’t immediately say if the Kurds have met the deadline. It said Russian and Turkish military officials completed a second day of talks about implementing last week’s deal struck by Moscow and Ankara to divide control of northeast Syria, but didn’t provide further details.

The Syrian Kurdish fighters had until 3 p.m. GMT to pull back to positions about 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the Turkish border. Ankara has threatened to resume its offensive if the Kurdish militias did not retreat.

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