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Friday, October 22, 2021

Russia, Turkey agree to joint patrols on Syria border

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Russia, Turkey agree to joint patrols on Syria border
Russia, Turkey agree to joint patrols on Syria border

Russian and Turkish leaders on Tuesday agreed to terms that would allow Ankara's military operations in Syria to continue as a U.S.-brokered cease-fire is set to expire.

Zachary Goelman reports.

As a U.S.-brokered cease-fire between Turkey and Kurdish fighters in Syria came to an end Tuesday, a view of the new reality on the ground began to emerge.

Its authors appear to be leaders in Moscow and Ankara.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Sochi and drew up a plan to jointly control and patrol a broad swath of the Syrian border following the retreat or defeat of American-backed Kurdish fighters.

(SOUNDBITE) (Russian) RUSSIAN PRESIDENT, VLADIMIR PUTIN, SAYING: "In my opinion, these decisions are very important, maybe even momentous, and will allow us to resolve the acute situation on the Syria-Turkey border.

" Turkish forces moved into the area two weeks ago after U.S. President Donald Trump pulled American troops from bases in Syria.

Ankara's goal is to push back Kurdish fighters from near its border.

Turkey views the Syrian Kurds as a security threat.

But those same Kurds were key U.S. allies in the fight against ISIS in Syria.

The American pullout left the Kurds at the mercy of the Turkish onslaught, and many now accuse Trump of betrayal.

Trump on Monday dismissed the criticism.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, SAYING: "We never agreed to protect the Kurds for the rest of their lives." Scores of Kurdish fighters have been killed battling the Turkish military.

Thousands of Kurdish civilians have fled the fighting.

(SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) DISPLACED KURD, AMINA MOHAMED, SAYING: "The bombing started at 4 o'clock.

I went to my family's, I stayed there for 15 days.

After 15 days they hit the villages.

After the bombing I came to my husband.

He couldn't find us.

He was out from the morning to the afternoon.

I took phones from people and tried to call him.

After he found us, the rescue car came and brought us here." U.S. Vice President Mike Pence brokered a cease-fire last week to allow the Kurds time to withdraw.

That cease-fire expired Tuesday.

Stripped of U.S. protection, the Kurdish fighters struck a deal for Syrian government forces to deploy into the region it controlled.

That brings Syrian President Bashar al-Assad closer to reclaiming full control of his civil-war-wracked nation.

He toured areas parts of the front line Tuesday, and railed against the Turkish incursion along the border.

(SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) SYRIAN PRESIDENT, BASHAR AL-ASSAD, SAYING: "For us it is known from the past, but what I want to say is that when we say that Erdogan is a thief who stole the factories, stole wheat, stole oil in collaboration with Daesh (Islamic State) and now he is stealing the land." Assad may not like Turkish forces in Syria, but he may not have a choice.

He was able to cling to power with the help of Russian military intervention, and Russia appears to have blessed Turkey's incursion.

Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday said Russian military police and Syrian border guards would be deployed on the Syrian side of the border with Turkey.

(SOUNDBITE) (Russian) RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINSTER, SERGEI LAVROV, SAYING: "Both sides confirm their intention to keep political and territorial unity of Syria (OVER PUTIN AND ERDOGAN LISTENING) as well as to ensure national security of Turkey." With the cease-fire over, Syria's fate appears more certainly in the hands of Moscow.

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