Russian Defence Minister says withdrawal of Kurdish forces in northeast Syria complete

Russia’s Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu said on Tuesday that efforts for the removal of Kurdish forces in northeast Syria were complete ahead of the deadline for last week’s agreement between Russia and Turkey, Russian website Sputnik Turkish reported.

According to the agreement reached on Oct. 22, Russia would oversee the removal of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the People’s Protection Units (YPG) from the 120 km long, 30 km deep safe zone to be established in Syrian territory along Turkey’s southern border within 150 hours, which expired at 6 p.m. local time on Tuesday.

With the removal now complete, Syrian border guards and Russian military police have entered the region, Shoygu said.

Turkey had launched a military incursion into Kurdish-held northeast Syria on Oct. 9 with the aim to establish a buffer zone between the country and the U.S.-allied SDF. Ankara considers the Kurdish-majority group to be a terrorist organisation with ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The agreement between Russia and Turkey came at the end of a 5-day pause to Turkey’s operation as per a previous agreement with the United States.

Russia and Turkey are set to launch joint patrols along a 10 km deep area in the safe zone. 

Turkey is also planning to resettle up to two out of the four million Syrian refugees it hosts in the safe zone to be established, with infrastructure and development works to be taken on by Turkish contractors.