Putin, Erdogan strike deal on joint patrols of Syria border

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Erdogan (left) and Putin shake hands during a joint press conference following their talks. PHOTO: AFP

ANKARA (BLOOMBERG) - Russia and Turkey struck a deal on an operation to secure a buffer zone in northern Syria, including joint patrols and coordinated action with Syrian forces to remove Kurdish fighters from the area.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan emerged from more than six hours of talks on Tuesday (Oct 22) to announce the agreement, which they said would begin at noon on Wednesday.

"We've signed a historic memorandum with Putin for the territorial and political integrity of Syria and the return of refugees," Erdogan said at a joint news conference in Russia's Sochi.

They reached "crucial" decisions that will help "resolve the rather acute situation that has developed on the Syrian-Turkish border," Putin said.

Russian military police and Syrian border guards will "facilitate the removal" of Kurdish YPG militia and their weapons to a distance of at least 30km from the border with Turkey within 150 hours, according to the agreement.

Turkish and Russian forces will then begin joint patrols to the west and east of Turkey's Operation Peace Spring zone inside Syria to a depth of 10km, the two presidents said in the accord.

Kurdish YPG fighters must also leave the Syrian frontier cities of Manbij and Tal Rifat, according to the joint memorandum.

The existing situation in the Operation Peace Spring zone covering the border towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn will be preserved to a depth of 32km inside Syria, it said.

The deal was reached as a cease-fire that Erdogan agreed on with US Vice-President Mike Pence last week after the withdrawal of American troops from Kurdish-held northern Syria is due to expire at 10pm local time.

Turkey's military operation in northern Syria is coming to an end as a result of the agreement. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. Russia and Turkey will establish a joint monitoring mechanism to ensure implementation of the accord, he said.

"We will work together with our Russian friends in projects to enable the voluntary return" of refugees to Syria, Erdogan said.

"From now on, our main goal is to strengthen the environment of stability," he said.

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