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Turkey will attack 'any Kurdish fighters' remaining at border

The Kurdish-led SDF has agreed to vacate the area [AFP]

Date of publication: 29 October, 2019

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The Kurdish-led forces have until 3 p.m. GMT on Tuesday to vacate the part of northeast Syria bordering Turkey.

The Turkish military will attack any Syrian Kurdish fighter that remains along the border area in northeast Syria after a deadline for them to leave expires, the foreign minister said on Monday.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have until 3 p.m. GMT on Tuesday to pull back to positions about 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the Turkish border as part of a Russian-Turkish deal inked last week.

The Kurdish-led SDF on Sunday agreed to comply with the deal, which will see Syrian regime and Russian forces replace their presence in the border zone.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters on Monday that, while Russian and Syrian officials had confirmed that some Kurdish fighters had withdrawn from the border area, others had not.

Turkey and Russia will conduct join patrols along the border strip once the Kurdish forces leave. Cavusoglu added that a Russian military delegation was due to arrive in Turkey to discuss the planned joint patrols.

Ankara will keep sole control of a large section in the center of the border, most of which it captured in its invasion launched October 9 with the aid of Syrian proxy militant groups. 

Turkey has long sought to drive the formerly US-allied Kurdish forces from the border area and form a "safe zone" where many of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees currently living in Turkey will be resettled.

Ankara considers the People's Protection Units (YPG), the Kurdish force that is the largest constituent of the SDF, a terrorist organisation intractably linked to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a Kurdish militia that has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

The US military was allied with the SDF for five years in the long and bloody campaign that pushed the Islamic State group from its last territorial stronghold in Syria earlier this year.

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