Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin have come up with what they called a “historic” deal over military action against Kurds in northern Syria after a marathon diplomatic meeting.
The new deal came just ahead of the expiry of a ceasefire between Kurdish fighters and Turkish forces which had been brokered by the United States. Russia and Turkey will conduct joint patrols on the border, changing the power dynamic in the area, reported BBC.
The two powers had both stationed troops on the Turkey-Syria border after US troops withdrew from the area. Turkey launched an offensive against Syrian Kurdish militias, which it considers a terrorist group.
Kurdish fighters said they had completed their withdrawal under that agreement, but the deal agreed by Turkey with Russia has effectively extended it.
They have been given another 150 hours to withdraw to a depth of 32km (20 miles) from the border – a so-called “safe zone”.
The Kurdish forces in northern Syria are dominated by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia, which Turkey considers a threat lying on its border.
The deal effectively splits military control of the region between Russia and Turkey, filling a role left vacant by the United States’ sudden and unexpected withdrawal.
After the US forces – which had been allies to the Kurds fighting the Islamic State group – withdrew, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched a cross-border offensive on 9 October.
Russia, allied to Syria’s president, stationed troops near the border over concerns that Syria’s territory was being encroached upon by a foreign power.
The Russian deployment had created the potential for clashes between Russia and Turkey – something Mr Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin both want to avoid.
But after six hours in a private meeting, Mr Erdogan and Mr Putin, the two sides agreed a deal.
Russia has agreed to allow Turkey’s operation, removing the risk of conflict between the two sides.
The UN says more than 176,000 people, including almost 80,000 children, have been displaced in the past two weeks in north-east Syria, which is home to some three million people.
Some 120 civilians have been killed in the battle, along with 259 Kurdish fighters, 196 Turkish-backed Syrian rebels and seven Turkish soldiers, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a UK-based monitoring group.
Twenty civilians have also been killed in attacks by the YPG on Turkish territory, Turkish officials say. (Source: BBC)