Mon 13 Jul 2020

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Turkish-Russian agreements redraws the map of eastern Euphrates 

Russian- Turkish patrols in the province of al- Hasakah near the Turkish- Syrian border - 1 November 2019 (AFP)

Russian- Turkish patrols in the province of al- Hasakah near the Turkish- Syrian border - 1 November 2019 (AFP)

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The Turkish-Russian negotiations resulted in a new agreement for the partial redeployment of Turkish forces and their ally, the Syrian National Army (SNA) on the one hand, and the Russian, Syrian regime forces and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on the other, on both sides of the M4 international highway in rural al-Hasakah and Raqqa in northeastern Syria.

The new agreement followed heavy clashes in eastern Euphrates over the M4 international highway and the strategically-located towns of Tel Tamer and Ain Issa. The Turkish armed forces along with the SNA conducted a military operation in order to push the SDF away from the Turkish borders and to establish the so-called safe zone, agreed between Ankara and Washington.

Clashing sides dividing M4 highway

The SNA spokesperson, Yousef Hamoud, said on Monday, 2 December that “Turkish and Russian sides agreed on deploying Turkish forces and SNA in the northern part of the M4 highway ( the distance will be defined later by Turkey). In addition, the Turkish forces will be deployed south of the road, and military bases will be established for both sides.”

In an interview with Enab Baladi, Hamoud pointed out that according to the agreement Turkey and Russia will conduct joint patrols on the M4 highway from Tel Tamer to Ain Issa. This new bilateral agreement is an update of the agreement signed in October 2019 which required joint military patrols on Turkey-Syria border.

Hamoud also highlighted that Russian forces successfully entered the town of Tel Tamer under the facilitations provided by the SDF to the Russians.

Hamoud said that the Russian entry followed long-running series of negotiations and disagreements over the fate of Tel Tamer that Turkey fought hard to enter and failed.

Russia insists to keep the SDF in the town of Ain Issa in rural Raqqa, which Turkey strongly rejects and negotiates to determine the fate of the town, according to Hamoud.

Hamoud indicated that Turkish and Russian forces could also conduct joint patrols in the towns of Tel Tamer and Ain Issa in the upcoming period, while their proxies continue fighting as part of the Turkish plan to push the SDF units away from their borders.

Hamoud claimed in his statement that “the fighting will not stop. And that they mentioned earlier that fighting will take place at different stages and with time intervals.”

This map shows the deployment of Turkish, Russian, SDF forces in the provinces of al- Hasakah and Raqqa, in north-eastern Syria, according to the Tukish-Russian agreement - 2 December 2019 (Edited by Enab Baladi)

This map shows the deployment of Turkish, Russian, SDF forces in the provinces of al- Hasakah and Raqqa, in north-eastern Syria, according to the Tukish-Russian agreement – 2 December 2019 (Edited by Enab Baladi)

Syrian regime forces entering the al-Aaliah grain silos in Tel Tamer after Russian-backed deal with Turkey and SDF

SANA reported that “some Syrian Arab Army forces entered the al-Aaliah grain silos in the southern countryside of Ras al-Ayn” on the al-Hasakah – Aleppo international highway connecting between the provinces of al-Hasakah and Aleppo.

SANA added that the forces also entered the villages of al-Suwayfah and al-Nujudia in the southern side of the Ras al-Ayn area in the countryside of al-Hasakah, in the light of Turkish-Russian consultations in the region on the map of the field control of the warring forces.

Mazloum Abdi, the commanding general of the SDF, said on his Twitter account on Monday, 2 December that, “we were honored today to host the commander of the Russian forces in Syria, General Alexander Chaiko. It was a productive meeting; we agreed to deploy Russian forces in Amuda, Tel Tamer and Ain Issa for the security and stability of the region. We are looking forward to further joint efforts in the interests of our countries.”

However, Russia and Turkey have not officially commented on the latest agreement so far.

Battles between the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (TFSA)— officially known as the Syrian National Army (SNA)— and the SDF are taking place in northeastern Syria, intensified near the Turkish border.

The SNA expanded its control to the international road “M4” last month, from Tel Tamer in the countryside of al-Hasakah to Ayn Issa in the countryside of Raqqa, as part of the Turkish military operation, cod-named by Turkey “Operation Peace Spring”.

The operation was aimed at keeping the People’s Protection Units (YPG) away from Turkey’s border to a depth of 30 kilometers, and establishing the so-called safe zone agreed between Ankara and Washington.

Fighting continues in the region even though Turkey announced the cessation of Operation Peace Spring on 22 October 2019, after an agreement signed between Ankara and Moscow in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. The agreement provided for the complete withdrawal of all SDF from the Turkish-Syrian border at a depth of 30 kilometers within 150 hours as well as their weapons from the towns of Manbij and Tel Rifaat.

Russian and Turkish troops are to hold joint patrols at a depth of ten kilometers along the Turkish-Syrian border, with the exception of Qamishli, while maintaining the situation between the cities of Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ayn, according to the Sochi-agreement.

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