Turkey yesterday started joint patrols with Russia in northern Syria to verify whether Kurdish forces have withdrawn from a key border zone in compliance with a deal reached between the two governments.
The patrols, which began just before noon (1000 GMT), follow an agreement they signed in the Black Sea resort of Sochi last week which gave Kurdish forces 150 hours to withdraw from a band of territory along the border, in a process that Russia said was now complete.
They add to the complicated mix of forces operating along the frontier, including US troops who patrolled an eastern section on Thursday for the first time since US President Donald Trump said last month the troops were withdrawing.
Last week’s Sochi agreement halted a Turkish operation lauched against Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria on October 9, which left hundreds dead and prompted tens of thousands to flee their homes.
Under the deal, Turkey is to assume control over one 120 kilometre (75 mile) wide section in the centre of the border, while Syrian government forces are to deploy to the east and west.
Along the whole length of the border, a 10-kilometre-deep buffer zone is to be created on the Syrian side which will be jointly patrolled by Russian and Turkish troops.
Turkey intends to set up a “safe zone” 30 kilometres deep, in which some of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees it is hosting could be resettled.