Russia has informed Turkey that Kurdish fighters in Syria have completed their withdrawal from areas near the border, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday. “Russia informed our competent authorities of the terror groups’ complete withdrawal from there,” Erdogan said in a televised speech. That deadline expired at 1500 GMT Tuesday.
Under the Sochi deal, Turkish and Russian joint patrols are meant to start after the 150-hour deadline expired.
No date was given for the start of joint patrols but Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said they would begin “soon”. The patrols are to be in two zones stretching 10 kilometres to the east and west of Turkey’s current Operation Peace Spring against Kurdish forces in Syria.
Turkey’s foreign minister has said that his country’s military will attack any Syrian Kurdish fighter that remains along the border area in northeast Syria after a deadline for them to leave expires. Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters on Monday that Russian and Syrian officials provided information that some Kurdish fighters had pulled out of the border area, but others still had not. The Kurdish withdrawal is in line with a Russian-Turkish agreement reached last week.
Turkey has agreed to "pause" its military action in Syria launched on October 9 on the condition that Kurdish forces withdrew from an initial 120-kilometre area from the border, following a deal with US Vice President Mike Pense last Thursday. Turkey has, however, repeatedly threatened to restart its offensive, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowing to "crush the heads" of Syrian Kurdish forces if they failed to retreat.
Ankara says the YPG is a terror group linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has waged a bloody campaign against the Turkish state since 1984.
The Turkish military, together with its proxies in Syria, launched an operation on October 9 to clear YPG forces from areas near its border and create a safe zone to repatriate some of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees currently in Turkey.