Russian officials, Syria’s Assad discuss northeast Syria - Reuters

A delegation of Russian officials met with Syrian President Bashar Assad on Friday in Damascus, where they discussed the need to de-escalate the situation in northeast Syria, Reuters reported citing a statement by the Russian foreign ministry on Saturday.

“The discussion focused on the current situation ‘on the ground’ in Syria in the light of rising tensions in the north-east of the country,” the ministry said. “The need to take measures to de-escalate the situation and ensure security in these areas was noted.”

Tensions have escalated in northeast Syria, where Turkey launched a military offensive on Oct. 9 against Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which it sees as an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The Russian delegation was headed by special envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentyev in Damascus, according to Sputnik. 

Lavrentyev visited Ankara on Thursday and had a meeting with a Turkish delegation headed by Turkey’s presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın. The meeting took place hours before Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence met in the presidential palace in Ankara and agreed on a five-day pause to Turkey’s military offensive.

“Assad confirmed that efforts should be directed at ending this [Turkish] aggression and the pullout of all illegal forces, including the Turkish and American soldiers, from Syrian territory since they are considered occupying forces under international convention,” Sputnik quoted a statement of the Syrian presidency press service, published after the meeting with the Russian delegation, as saying.

Erdoğan will meet with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Tuesday, the day the five-day ceasefire in northern Syria will end. 

The Kurdish-led Syrian administration in northern Syria inked a deal with Assad this week to halt the Turkish offensive after the United States announced that it would withdraw American troops in the region.

Erdoğan said on Friday that Ankara expected Assad forces to remove the YPG from the northwestern Syrian town of Manbij, which was handed by the Kurdish-led forces to the Syrian military this week.