The armies of Syria and Turkey traded deadly fire Tuesday for the first time since Ankara launched an anti-Kurdish offensive in early October, as Russia announced Kurdish forces had withdrawn from the border area.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Kurdish forces had pulled back from the entire border as per a deal struck between Ankara and regime backer Moscow in Sochi earlier this month.
The Turkish military and its Syrian proxies launched an offensive against Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria on October 9 with the aim of creating a buffer zone roughly 30 kilometres (20 miles) deep.
“The withdrawal of armed units from territory where a security corridor should be created has been completed ahead of time,” Shoigu said, as quoted by Russian news agencies.
He added that Syrian border guards and Russian military police had been deployed in the area.
Earlier this month, Kurdish forces agreed to withdraw from a 120-kilometre long, Arab-majority segment of the 440-kilometre border zone, but clashes have been reported since.
The Turkish presidency said joint Turkish-Russian patrols — also planned under the Sochi deal — would verify the Kurdish forces’ withdrawal.
But the situation was complicated by clashes between Syrian and Turkish forces on Tuesday.