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Joint Turkish-Russian patrols will commence later this week as Kurdish forces continue leaving the 20-mile ‘safe zone’ along Syria’s border with Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.
The joint patrols “start on Friday,” Erdogan said in a speech to lawmakers on Wednesday, referring to the deal he struck with Russian leader Vladimir Putin last week.
The purpose of the patrols is to maintain security within ‘safe zone’ along the Turkish-Syrian border. The Russian Defense Ministry previously said that the Kurdish forces, who Ankara considers to be terrorists, have left the area through a specially-organized ‘safety corridor.’ They have been replaced by Syrian government troops and Russian military police.
Erdogan said he received confirmation from Moscow that Kurdish paramilitaries had withdrawn from the border but, according to Turkish intelligence, in some instances that wasn’t the case. He warned that the Turkish Army will continue its push against the Kurds if they fail to retreat as promised or attack Turkish soldiers.
We will give a drastic response to any attack coming from outside of safe zone and we will expand our safe zone area if needed.
Ankara launched an offensive, dubbed Operation Peace Spring, targeting the Kurdish forces earlier this month. The advance was halted after the US agreed to facilitate the Kurdish withdrawal, and later a similar deal was reached with Russia.
US troops, which have been allied with the Kurds in their fight against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), began hastily leaving the area shortly before the Turkish invasion. They pulled out of the major cities of Raqqa and Manbij, and the Syrian Army along with Russian military policemen replaced them.
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