Joint Turkish-Russian patrols set for Syria as Kurdish fighters withdraw
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Turkish-Russian joint patrols will start in Syria on Friday, Turkey's president said Wednesday, after the Kremlin said Syrian Kurdish fighters had withdrawn under a deal between Ankara and Moscow.
"We will start the joint work on the ground on Friday, namely we are starting the joint patrols," President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told parliament in a televised speech.
Under the agreement hammered out in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi last week after Turkey's cross-border offensive into Syria, Kurdish militia forces were given a 150-hour deadline, which expired at 1500 GMT Tuesday.
Under the Sochi deal, Turkish and Russian joint patrols were meant to begin after the deadline expired.
Erdogan said Russian authorities informed Ankara that some 34,000 members of the "terror group" have withdrawn -- together with 3,260 pieces of heavy weaponry -- from a zone running 30 kilometres (18 miles) from the Turkish-Syrian border.
"The data we have points to the fact that this wasn't fully achieved," Erdogan said, referring to the Russian assurances.
"We will give the necessary response after we carry out work in the field," Erdogan added.
He again stressed that Turkey "reserves the right to carry out its own operation" if it identifies any Syrian Kurdish militia or if its forces come under attack.