Syrian Kurdish forces start to withdraw from Turkish border as safe zone operations begin

Syrian Kurdish forces start to withdraw from Turkish border as safe zone operations begin
2 min read
27 August, 2019
Progress towards implementing the so-called 'safe zone' is underway on both sides of the Syrian and Turkish border.
The US and Turkey have also set up a joint operations center [AFP]
Syrian Kurdish authorities said they had begun to pull back their troops from the Turkish border on Tuesday amid preparations for a US and Turkey-brokered buffer zone there.

Work had begun on Saturday on "the first practical steps" towards withdrawing troops in the Ras al-Ain area of northeast Syria, they said according to AFP.

The Kurdish forces removed "some earth mounds" and withdrew a group of their People's Protection Units (YPG) forces, in addition to some heavy weapons, from the area, which is also known as Serekaniye in Kurdish.

Similar steps were also taken in the town of Tal Abyad, Kurdistan24 reported.

Preparations for the "safe zone" agreed by Washington and Ankara earlier this month are also underway on the other side of the border.

A joint operation centre to manage the buffer zone opened last week in the Turkish border province Sanliurfa.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that Turkish troops would enter the buffer zone "very soon".

"Right now, our drones and unmanned aerial vehicles have entered the region along with our helicopters. The fortifications near our borders are being destroyed. We expect our land troops to enter the region very soon," he said according to Hurriyet Daily News.

"But if we were to be forced towards a path under coercion, if we are faced with attempts to stall, we will carry our own plans into effect," the president added. "All preparations have been finalised."

Turkey has repeatedly insisted it would not hesitate to carry out its plans alone if US officials hesitate or stall over the "safe zone".

The buffer zone has been a long-held plan for Erdogan, whose government sees the YPG as "terrorists" due to the group's connections with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a Kurdish militia that has been engaged in an on-off civil war with the Turkish state since the 1980s.

The president insists that the Syrian Kurdish forces must vacate territory near to the Syrian borders with Turkey.

Ankara also considers the buffer zone a "peace corridor" to which Syrian refugees currently resident in Turkey can return.

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