Mon, 18 Nov 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.

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.

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) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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