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Turkey, Russia start first joint patrols in northeast Syria

Turkey Syria border (عمرو بن كلثوم/WikiCommons)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Turkish and Russian troops began their first joint patrols on November 1 in northeast Syria, in accordance with a deal reached last week between Ankara and Moscow that halted a Turkish offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters.

The joint patrols “with ground and air units” were under way east of the Syrian border town of Al-Darbasiyah, Turkey’s Defense Ministry tweeted.

Russia’s Defense Ministry confirmed that the patrol consisting of Russian military police personnel and Turkish border guards began at the Al-Darbasiyah border checkpoint.

The convoy was made up of several armored vehicles, including a Russian BTR-82, Tigr and Typhoon vehicles, and Turkish Kirpi vehicles, the ministry said in a statement issued in Moscow.

They were to patrol an area of more than 110 kilometers, it added.

Turkish state broadcaster TRT reported that the joint convoy will patrol the area between Al-Darbasiyah and Qamishli, at a depth of 10 kilometers into Syrian territory.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) confirmed the patrols’ launch.

Turkey launched an offensive against Kurdish-led forces on October 9 after U.S. President Donald Trump announced he was withdrawing the bulk of U.S. troops from northeast Syria.

On October 22, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed at a meeting in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi to share control of the border areas of northeast Syria, giving Syrian Kurdish militias 150 hours to vacate.

Under the Erdogan-Putin agreement, Turkey will retain control of the area it seized during the offensive.

The Turkish Defense Ministry said a Russian military delegation would be in Ankara on November 1 to discuss technical issues related to the Sochi deal.

Separately, the ministry said a Turkish soldier was killed after an improvised explosive device detonated on October 31, bringing the Turkish military’s death toll to 13 since the start of the invasion.

The ministry also said that it has handed over 18 men believed to be Syrian government soldiers who were detained in northeast Syria near the Turkish border earlier this week.

It said the move came after coordination with Russia, without specifying to whom the men were handed over.

The men were seized on October 29 during operations southeast of the Syrian border town of Ras al-Ain, the ministry said.