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Turkey pauses Syria offensive after deals with US and Russia

The US said Syrian Kurdish fighters had completed their pullout from areas Ankara invaded earlier this month.

Turkish troops in Syria (AP Photo)
Turkish troops in Syria (AP Photo)

By Suzan Fraser, Associated Press

Turkey will not resume its offensive against Kurdish Syrian fighters in north-east Syria, the government has said, after separate agreements reached with the US and Russia.

Turkey’s defence ministry said the US had announced that Syrian Kurdish fighters had completed their pullout from areas Ankara invaded earlier this month, as a five-day ceasefire allowing for the withdrawal expired on Tuesday night.

The statement came the morning after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a separate deal for their forces to jointly patrol almost the entire north-eastern Syrian border after the Kurdish withdrawal.

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Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin (Sergei Chirikov/AP)

Under that deal, Turkey will maintain control over the region it holds since its incursion, an area which runs roughly 75 miles along the border and spans a depth of about 20 miles.

It also lets Russian and Syrian troops control the rest of the border, filling a void left by US troops’ abrupt withdrawal.

“At this stage, there is no further need to conduct a new operation outside the present operation area,” the ministry statement said.

However, foreign minister Mevlut Cavusolgu said Turkish forces would “neutralise” any Syrian Kurdish fighters they come across in areas Ankara now controls.

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Syrian government forces (Baderkhan Ahmad/AP)

“If there are terrorist remnants, we would clear them,” Mr Cavusoglu told Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency in a televised interview.

He said the deal with Russia would continue until a lasting political solution for Syria is reached. The border areas would be locally administered, mostly by Syrian Arabs, he added.

He also said Turkey agreed not to conduct joint patrols in the Syrian city of Qamishli, because of Russian concerns that such a move could lead to a confrontation between Turkish troops and Syrian government forces, long present in the area.

Mr Cavusolgu added that he hoped the deal would lead to the return of Syrian refugees and renewed a call for international assistance to resettle them.

PA

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