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October 21, 2019

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Russia and Turkey to talk on Kurd withdrawal

Turkey and Russia will discuss the removal of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia from the northern Syrian towns of Manbij and Kobani during talks in Sochi next week, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said yesterday.

Turkey paused its military offensive into the northeastern Syria after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan agreed on Thursday, in talks with US Vice President Mike Pence, a five-day ceasefire to allow the YPG to withdraw from a “safe zone” Ankara aims to establish near its border.

The truce is also aimed at easing a crisis triggered by US President Donald Trump’s abrupt decision this month to withdraw all 1,000 US troops from the northern Syria, a move criticized in Washington and elsewhere as a betrayal of Kurdish allies who had fought for years alongside US troops against Islamic State.

Assad has deployed his forces in territory formerly protected by Washington, invited by the Kurds. Erdogan, who has backed rebels fighting to oust Assad, said Turkey has no problem with Syrian government forces deploying near the border.

Speaking at an interview with broadcaster Kanal 7 yesterday, Cavusoglu said urgent talks between Erdogan and Russia’s Vladimir Putin would be held this week.

“We will discuss the removal of the YPG terrorists from our borders, namely Manbij and Kobani, with the Russians,” Cavusoglu said. “We believe we can reach an agreement with them to work together in the future, just like we have before.”

Ankara regards the YPG, the main component of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, as a terrorist group because of its links to Kurdish insurgents in the southeast Turkey. The YPG has been a close US ally in the fight against Islamic State.

The SDF and Damascus struck a deal this month to counter the Turkish offensive in the northeastern Syria, prompting Syrian army forces to deploy in Manbij and Kobani, towns of strategic importance given their location on the Syrian border with Turkey.

Moscow has said the Turkish offensive into Syria was “unacceptable” and should be limited.

Erdogan on Saturday said he would also discuss Syrian army deployment with Putin, saying the two needed to find a solution to the matter.


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