Beirut, Oct 23 : Kurdish-led forces in northern Syria have withdrawn from the Turkish border area in line with a ceasefire pact drawn up between Turkey and the United States, which is due to expire in a matter of hours.
“The Syrian Democratic Forces have withdrawn from the areas around Ras Al Ain and Tal Abyad,” Mervan Qamishli, a spokesperson for the SDF, told Efe news on Tuesday.
It comes as news emerges from a meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in the Russian Black Sea city of Sochi that both nations had agreed to create a so-called safe zone in northern Syria.
From 23 October, Russian military police and Syrian regime border guards would begin to clear the People’s Protection Units (YPG) from the 30-kilometer deep buffer zone sought by Ankara within a period of 150 hours.
Joint Turkish-Russian patrols would then begin in the area, apart from in the city of Qamishli, according to a memorandum released after the meeting.
Gains made by Turkish-backed Syrian militias in the border cities of Ras Al Ain and Tal Abyad would also be preserved.
The YPG would be evicted from Manbij and Tal Rifat.
The SDF, predominantly comprised of the YPG, a key US ally in the fight against the Islamic State terror organization in the region, had been facing a Turkish military offensive since American forces withdrew from the area around two weeks ago.
Ankara considers the YPG to be a terror group indistinguishable from the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), a guerrilla group widely listed as a terror organization that has fought the Turkish state in the country’s predominantly Kurdish east for decades.
Ras Al Ain and Tal Abyad had been two of the key objectives for the Turkish military operation into northern Syria, led on the ground by Ankara-backed Syrian opposition fighters.
Putin is one of the main international backerd of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, while Turkey backs rebel groups located in Syria’s northern regions. Both countries, along with Iran, form part of the so-called Astana trio, which aims to find a solution to the Syrian Civil War.
The Turkish government earlier warned it would ramp up its military operation in northern Syria the minute the ceasefire expires if the YPG or the Democratic Union Party (PYD) continued to have a presence in the area.
Ankara wants to carve out a 30-kilometer deep “safe zone” along its border, stretching from the Euphrates to the Iraqi border, partly to create a buffer between it and Kurdish forces but also to settle some of the four million Syrian refugees in Turkey.
The ceasefire, which ends at 10.00 pm local time (7.00 p.m. GMT), was agreed on 17 October between the Turkey and United States Vice President Mike Pence.
Kurdish forces in the region said, however, that Turkish-backed Syrian militias had continued military action despite the agreement.
Following the US withdrawal, Kurdish forces turned to the Damascus regime for help.