Russian troops in Afrin begin withdrawing: Turkish state-run agency
Russian military police stationed in the Afrin region of Syria have begun withdrawing before a potential military operation by the Turkish army, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency has reported, in a development that comes only a day after key military and intelligence talks between the two sides in Moscow.
Anadolu Agency reported on Jan. 19 that tens of Russian military police that pulled back from villages near Afrin arrived in Nubul and Zahra districts under the control of the Syrian regime forces. Citing “reliable local sources” in Afrin, the agency did not provide further details on the motive and scope of the withdrawal.
There was no immediate reaction from Moscow and Ankara to either confirm or deny the military pullback from this region.
It’s believed that Russia has a few hundred military observers in that particular region in northern Syria which is largely under the control of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a group Turkey considers as the offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), therefore, a terrorist organization.
The development followed Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and National Intelligence Organization (MİT) chief Hakan Fidan held talks with Russian Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov in Moscow on Jan. 18.
In an interview with private broadcaster CNN Türk on Jan. 18, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu underlined the need to be in coordination with Russia before the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) launches its planned operation.
“We have to be in coordination with them so Russian observers are not negatively affected. We have carried out a number of our steps with Russia. We have some disagreements but that hasn’t hindered our cooperation so far,” he added. “We should therefore be very careful in our efforts to avoid accidents,” Çavuşoğlu said, adding that there are “various countries and players in the Syrian theater.”
He also said talks are also focused on Turkey’s demand of using Syrian airspace for a more efficient military operation into Afrin.