News ID: 260654
Published: 0331 GMT October 23, 2019

Russia deploys forces at Syrian border under new accord

Russia deploys forces at Syrian border under new accord
AFP

Iran welcomes any steps that secure stability in Syria

Russian military police began patrols on part of the Syrian border Wednesday, quickly moving to implement an accord with Turkey that divvies up control of northeastern Syria. Russia told Kurdish militiamen to pull back from the entire frontier or else face being “steamrolled” by Turkish forces.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan echoed those warnings, saying his military would resume its offensive against Kurdish forces if the new arrangements are not carried out.

Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin reached an agreement Tuesday that would transform the map of northeast Syria, installing their forces along the border and filling the void left by the abrupt withdrawal of American troops. The Kurdish militiamen, who once relied on the US forces as protection from Turkey, were given a deadline of next Tuesday evening to pull back from border areas they have not already left.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday the agreement was a positive step toward securing stability in Syria.

“Iran welcomes any steps that will bring security and calm to Syria and to secure the country’s integrity,” spokesman Seyyed Abbas Mousavi said.

The Kremlin pointedly referred to the US pullout as it told the Kurds to abide by the Russian-Turkish accord.

“The United States was the closest ally of the Kurds during the last few years, and in the end the US ditched the Kurds and effectively betrayed them,” leaving them to fight the Turks, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to Russian newswires.

“It’s quite obvious that if the Kurdish units don’t withdraw with their weapons then Syrian border guards and Russian military police will have to step back. And the remaining Kurdish units will be steamrolled by the Turkish army,” he said.

Turkey considers the Kurdish forces terrorists because of their links to Kurdish insurgents in Turkey. It has demanded they retreat from the entire border region, creating a “safe zone” where Turkey could also settle some of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees on its soil.

Ankara would gain that goal under the new accord with Moscow along with the agreement last week with the US that put a cease-fire in place.

Kurdish forces completed withdrawing on Tuesday from a stretch of territory 120 kilometers (75 miles) wide along the border and 30 kilometers (19 miles) deep between the towns of Ras al-Ayn and Tal Abyad. That pullback, allowing Turkish-backed forces to take over, was required under the US-Turkish accord.

The new agreement with Russia allows Turkey to keep sole control over that area. For the rest of the northeastern border, Russian and Syrian government forces will move in to ensure the Kurdish militia leave. Then after the deadline runs out Tuesday, Turkish and Russian forces will jointly patrol a strip 10-kilometers (6 miles) deep along the border.

The Russian Defense Ministry said a convoy of military police had crossed the Euphrates River and deployed in the Syrian border town of Kobane.

“The military police will help protect the population, maintain order, patrol the designated areas and assist in the withdrawal of Kurdish units and their weapons 30 kilometers away from the border,” it said.

The Turkish military said it would not resume its offensive “at this stage” after the US-brokered cease-fire expired Tuesday night. However, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusolgu said that Turkish forces would “neutralize” any Syrian Kurdish fighters they come across in areas that Turkey now controls.

President Erdogan said the attack would start again if the Kurdish pullback does not take place.

“Whether it’s our agreement with the United States or with Russia, if the promises given are not carried out, there will be no change concerning the steps we need to take,” he told journalists.

AP and Reuters contributed to this story.

 

   
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