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Turkey, Russia agree to remove Kurdish militants from NE Syria, launch joint patrols

Russia and Turkey have reached a deal to establish a safe zone long sought by Ankara in northern Syria, which will see Kurdish militants operating in the region removed to beyond 30 kilometers from the Turkish border.

The deal was announced on Tuesday evening following lengthy discussions between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in Sochi.

Under the deal, Erdogan said, the Kurdish militants will move 30 kilometers away from the border regions in northeastern Syria within 150 hours, which would begin at noon on Wednesday.

When the area is cleared of the Kurds, Turkish and Russian soldiers will jointly patrol 10 kilometers to the east and west of the buffer zone to block the militants’ possible infiltration into the area.

“All YPG elements and their weapons will be removed from Manbij and Tal Rifat [northern Syrian district],” read the deal, using an acronym for the so-called People’s Protection Units. “A joint monitoring and verification mechanism will be established to oversee and coordinate the implementation of this memorandum,” it added.

Syrian government forces will also join Russian troops alongside the border.

It remained unclear whether the YPG would agree to the terms of the deal.

Addressing reporters alongside Putin, Erdogan hailed the “historic” and said, “According to this agreement, Turkey and Russia will not allow any separatist agenda on Syrian territory.”

At the press briefing, Putin said foreign forces currently deployed unlawfully in Syria must leave. Turkey, he added, shares this vision and believes as well that the Arab country’s territorial integrity must be preserved.

He called for dialog between the Syrian government and Kurdish forces aimed at protecting the interests of all groups in Syria.

Putin noted that Russia shares Turkey’s concerns about certain separatist sentiments in Syria, which he said have been provoked from outside of Syria.