SDF says it withdraws only from part of stretch along Turkey-Syria border

A senior official from previously U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said Kurdish forces will withdraw only from a section of Turkey's southern border, Associated Press reported on Sunday.

Turkey’s offensive in northeast Syria targeting the SDF and affiliates, which began on Oct. 9 and mainly focused on two border towns Ras al Ayn and Tel Abyad, was halted on Thursday following a U.S.-brokered temporary ceasefire deal. According to the deal, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) will withdraw in 120 hours from territories in northern Syria where Turkey wants to establish a 32-kilometre safe zone. But the length of the planned safe zone remained uncertain.

Following the ceasefire deal, Ankara said it would establish a safe zone that stretches 440 kilometres from Manbij at the banks of the Euphrates river to the Iraqi border and 32 kilometres deep into Syria, as well as Kurdish forces would have to hand over their heavy arms and withdraw.

However, the SDF earlier said they had agreed to stop fighting in areas where there has been active conflict, but would not withdraw from territory the Syrian Kurds still control within the 32-km zone, which includes major towns.

Kurdish forces would only pull back from a 120-kilometre stretch along the border from Ras al Ayn to Tel Abyad contrary to Turkey's announcement of a complete withdrawal along its Syria border, Associated Press said citing Khalil.

“We are only committed to the U.S. version not the Turkish one,”  Khalil said, referring to an earlier deal between Turkey and the United States on a safe zone which failed over the diverging definitions of the area.

The withdrawal of Kurdish has been stalled for two days by Turkish-backed Syrian militias who continued their siege of Ras al Ayn, and the pullback from 120-kilometre stretch will take place once the surrounding is dropped, senior SDF official said.

Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Sunday said Ankara and Moscow would address the removal of the Syrian Kurdish forces from the northern Syrian towns of Manbij and Kobani during talks in Sochi next week. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Oct. 22, the day ceasefire in northeast Syria ends.