Russia, Turkey launch joint patrols in Syria

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia Oct. 22, 2019. (Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via Reuters)
Updated 23 October 2019

Russia, Turkey launch joint patrols in Syria

  • A five-day pause in Turkey’s cross-border military offensive to allow the withdrawal of Kurdish YPG fighters from the border area expires at 10 pm
  • Turkey says Kurdish YPG militia forces must leave a ‘safe zone’ it wants to establish along its border with northeast Syria

SOCHI: Russia and Turkey agreed on Tuesday to ensure Kurdish forces withdraw from areas close to Syria's border with Turkey and to launch joint patrols, in a deal hailed as "historic" by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
After marathon talks in Russia's southern city of Sochi, Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin announced the deal just hours ahead of a deadline for Turkey to restart its assault on Syrian Kurdish forces.
The agreement cements Russia and Turkey's roles as the main foreign players in Syria, after US President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of American forces from the country's north earlier this month.
That announcement cleared the way for Turkey to launch a cross-border offensive on October 9 against the Kurdish YPG militia, viewed by Ankara as "terrorists" linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
Turkey has seized control of a "safe zone" inside Syria about 120 kilometres long (75 miles) and 32 kilometres (20 miles) deep.
Tuesday's agreement with Moscow will see it preserve that zone between the towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain, giving Ankara a crucial presence inside the country.
From noon (0900 GMT) on Wednesday, Russian military police and Syrian border guards will "facilitate the removal" of Kurdish fighters and their weapons from within 30 kilometres (18 miles) of the border outside the zone.
This withdrawal must be finalised within 150 hours, according to a text of the agreement released after the talks.
Russian and Turkish forces will then begin joint patrols along the Turkish-controlled zone.
Putin said the decisions were "very important, if not crucial, to allowing us to resolve the acute situation on the Syrian-Turkish border."
Erdogan had earlier threatened to resume Ankara's military offensive against Kurdish forces in Syria if they did not withdraw as agreed under a US-brokered deal.
A deadline for the withdrawal passed at 1900 GMT on Tuesday, with a Kurdish official telling AFP they had "fully complied" ahead of the deadline.
The Turkish operation "is ending, and everything will depend now on the implementation of these agreements," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Sochi.
Turkey's assault had sparked Western outrage and accusations of betrayal from the Kurds, whose frontline fighters were crucial in the battle against the Islamic State group in Syria.
Russia is a key ally of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and has demanded that Turkey respect the country's territorial integrity.
As the US troops began to withdraw last week, Russian forces moved in to support the Syrian army, whose help against Turkey was requested by the Kurds.
Erdogan said last week he was not bothered by the Damascus regime's return as what mattered to Ankara was pushing back the Kurdish fighters from the safe zone.
Despite being on the opposite sides of the Syria conflict, Turkey and Russia have been working together to find a solution to the war.
Tuesday's agreement said the two countries would try "to find a lasting political solution to the Syrian conflict".
It said Russia and Turkey were determined "to combat terrorism in all forms... and to disrupt separatist agendas in Syrian territory".
Ankara says the YPG is a "terrorist" offshoot of the PKK, which has been waging an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984. The PKK is blacklisted as a terrorist group by Ankara, the United States and the European Union.
The agreement said efforts would also be launched for the return of refugees to Syria "in a safe and voluntary manner".
Ankara has said some of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey can be rehoused inside the safe zone.


Global rights groups condemn deadly attack on Yemen jail

Updated 06 April 2020

Global rights groups condemn deadly attack on Yemen jail

  • Internationally-recognized government has accused Iranian-backed Houthi militia of carrying out the attack

LONDON: Two international rights groups on Monday condemned an attack on a prison in Yemen’s besieged city of Taiz that left six women and a child dead.

The internationally-recognized government has accused Iranian-backed Houthi militia of carrying out Sunday’s attack.

The Houthis targeted the female section of the prison with mortar shells, according to the government’s Saba news agency.

“This is a criminal and bloodthirsty gang that has long targeted civilian gatherings and residential areas. In addition to the carnage in the prison, they gunned down today two children in eastern Taiz, killing one and leaving the other in critical condition,” Abdul Basit Al-Baher, a Yemeni army spokesman in Taiz, told Arab News, adding that the prison is almost 12km from the nearest battlefield.

“They targeted the prison with a Katyusha rocket followed by five mortal shells which show that they deliberately sought to kill civilians.”

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said its hospital in Taiz received the casualties.

“MSF-supported Al-Thawra Hospital in Taiz city received the bodies of six women and one child who were killed in an attack on the central prison in Taiz,” it said on Twitter.

The government said 28 other female prisoners were wounded.

“Taiz citizens continue to suffer from the ongoing violence in the sixth year of the protracted conflict in Yemen,” MSF said.

“These attacks on civilians, whether indiscriminate or targeted, are unjustifiable breaches of international humanitarian law.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross said attacks on prisons were banned under international law.

“The ICRC deplores yesterday’s attack on Taiz central prison that left women and children dead and injured,” the ICRC said on Twitter.

“Prisons and their inmates are protected under international humanitarian law and can not be a targeted, it said.

Meanwhile, the UN's envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths condemned the attack on Twitter, saying: "I condemn the heinous attack on Taiz's central prison which killed and injured several women and children.Civilians and civilian objects including prisons must be protected as per international humanitarian law."

 

 

The attack was also blasted by the International Committee for the Red Cross in Yemen.

 

 

Taiz, a city of 600,000 people in southwest Yemen, is under government control but has been under siege by Houthi militia for the past six years.

Tens of thousands of Yemenis have been killed in more than five years of fighting.

Yemen’s health care system has so far recorded no case of the COVID-19 illness, but aid groups have warned that when it does hit, the impact will be catastrophic. The country is already gripped by what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

(With AFP)

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