“The SDF is redeploying to new positions away from the Turkish-Syrian border across northeast Syria in accordance with the terms of the agreement in order to stop the bloodshed and to protect the inhabitants of the region from Turkish attacks,” the SDF said in a statement on Sunday.
The Kurdish-led SDF said Syrian government forces will deploy along the border. It called on Russia to help ensure a “constructive dialogue” between the Syrian government and the Kurdish-led administration in northeast Syria.
SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali told the AFP news agency that they would redeploy to positions about 30 kilometres (18.5 miles) away from the frontier.
Turkey and Russia agreed on October 22 that Syrian border guards and Russian military police would clear the border area up to 30km into Syria of YPG fighters over a six-day period that ends on Tuesday.
Turkey considers the SDF, spearheaded by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting against the Turkish state for decades in demand of autonomy.
The deal was reached after marathon talks between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Russian military police conducted the first patrols on Wednesday.
The Syrian government welcomed the SDF withdrawal, which removes “the main pretext for flagrant Turkish aggression on (Syrian) territory”, Syrian state news agency SANA said, citing a foreign ministry source.
The government will help citizens to reintegrate, SANA said, paving “the way for … a return to Syrian national unity”.
On October 9, Turkey launched an offensive aimed at carving out a “safe zone” cleared of the SDF, which Ankara considers to be “terrorists”, as well as at repatriating some of the 3.6 million refugees currently residing on its soil.
The inflow of refugees would change the demographic composition of the border area, much of which has a Kurdish majority.
Turkey’s Western allies – which saw Kurdish forces as an effective tool in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (the ISIL group or ISIS) – condemned its offensive.
Ankara contends that the YPG does not represent the Kurds and that its operation in Syria only targets fighters.