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AA 16/11/19: Russian-Turkish joint patrols in N.Syria serve as check: Experts

Turkish, Russian forces carry out ground patrols to monitor YPG/PKK retreat from region under Sochi deal, say experts.


Joint ground patrols by Russia and Turkey in northern Syria serve as a control mechanism to see whether YPG/PKK terrorists withdrew from the region, according to analysts.

Meeting in Sochi, Russia on Oct. 22, Ankara and Moscow reached a deal under which YPG/PKK terrorists would pull back 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) south of Turkey’s border with Syria, with security forces from Turkey and Russia starting joint patrols this month.

“Turkish and Russian forces are carrying out patrols to see if the YPG/PKK elements have really retreated from the region,” Oytun Orhan, a political analyst and researcher at the Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM), based in Turkey’s capital Ankara, told Anadolu Agency.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, as of Oct. 29, 68 PKK/YPG units totaling 34,000 personnel and more than 3,000 units of weapons and military equipment had pulled back the required distance from the contact line with the Turkish Armed Forces,

“These patrols can be interpreted as a control mechanism to fully apply the Sochi agreement in the field,” Orhan said.

In this process, Turkey will probably not be fully satisfied and will encounter terror elements in the field, but what matters is whether Russia is willing to implement the pact, Orhan stressed.

“If Russia makes efforts to protect YPG/PKK terrorists, like the U.S. did before, and enables YPG militants to stay in the region under the flag of the Syrian regime, that would hamper the patrol activities and the application of the Sochi agreement,” he said.

Orhan warned that such efforts would eventually damage Turkish-Russian cooperation over Syria.

“The process, however, has just started and Turkey is determined to give Russia some time,” he said.

Turkey will pressure Russia to eliminate situations in the field which violate the spirit of the agreement, according to Orhan.

“We’re talking about the existence of a longstanding administrative and military structure that has been established under U.S. support,” Orhan said, adding that no short-term solution should be expected.

Clearing the region of terrorists in just a few weeks is not possible, he said.

Orhan said Turkey will probably carry out patrols until it makes sure YPG/PKK terrorists have withdrawn at least 10 km (6.21 mi) south of Turkey’s border with Syria.

Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring, launched Oct. 9, aims to eliminate terrorist YPG/PKK elements from northern Syria east of the Euphrates River in order to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees, and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union -- has been responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants. The YPG is the PKK’s Syrian offshoot.

The U.S. has long partnered with YPG terrorists, ignoring evidence supplied by Turkey that the YPG is in fact part of the terrorist PKK, which the U.S. does recognize as a terror group.

Turkey sees Sochi fall short

Ali Semin, an expert on Middle Eastern studies from the Istanbul-based Wise Men Center for Strategic Studies (BILGESAM), said the aim of the Turkish-Russian joint patrols is to see whether the region of the planned safe zone is cleared of terrorists.

"The Sochi agreement does not fully satisfy Turkey, as the YPG/PKK terrorists have not fully withdrawn from the region," Semin said.

Semin said some areas in northern Syria are still under control of YPG/PKK terrorists though Turkey expected the area to be cleared under its agreement with Russia.

"Russia made YPG/PKK terrorists withdraw from city centers, but it is hard to say that they have withdrawn from the surrounding areas and the villages," Semin stressed.

"I don’t believe that Russia fully complies or will comply with the Sochi agreement,” he added.

Russia held teleconferences with the terrorist YPG/PKK chief Ferhat Abdi Sahin, codenamed Mazloum Kobani, Semin argued.

"The Russian Defense Ministry and Russian General Staff held talks with him and officially disclosed this to the international press," he said.

Semin said Russia may have had to hold talks with the YPG/PKK and SDF, but these did not have to be high-level talks, including the country’s chief of general stuff or defense minister.

Sahin is the ringleader of the YPG/PKK, the Syrian offshoot of the terrorist PKK.

Underlining that Russia still has not listed the YPG/PKK as a terrorist group, Semin said it wants to integrate terror elements into Assad regime forces.

Semin stressed that Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring not only affected the U.S. and Russia, but also led to closer relations between the YPG/PKK and the Syrian regime.

"There is no big difference between Russian and U.S. support for the terrorist group YPG," he highlighted.

But Turkey needs to act together with Russia to maintain a political balance in Syria, Semin added.

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