Turkey, Russia Reach Deal Over Buffer Zone in Northern Syria

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Tuesday agreed on the parameters of a proposed Turkish “safe zone” in Syria during their meeting in the Russian Black Sea city of Sochi.

Under the deal, Russian military police and Syrian border guards will first facilitate the withdrawal of Syrian Kurdish forces from the Turkish border. Russians and Turks will then jointly patrol the area now occupied by the Turkish military.

Russian military police and border guards from Syria will cross over the Syrian side of the border with Turkey. At that point, the two forces will “facilitate the removal of YPG elements and their weapons,” according to the memorandum.

The Kurdish YPG fighters, the key U.S. allies in the fight against ISIS, will have to retreat roughly 20 miles from the Turkish-declared security zone in Northern Syria.

The pullback is expected to last about six days, the memorandum said. Once it is completed, Russia and Turkey will jointly patrol that zone.

The chain of events triggered by US President Donald Trump’s October 6 announcement that US troops would leave Kurdish-controlled northeast Syria has left Moscow as the most powerful player in Syria’s complex war, now in its ninth year.

Turkish troops, allied Syrian rebel proxies, the SDF, and soldiers belonging to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad are now all present in the border zone, with Russia now the only negotiating force between them.