The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) have not fully withdrawn from the Syria-Turkey border territory as agreed in a Russia-brokered accord, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said, as Turkey prepares to discuss its next steps with Russia.
“There are those who have withdrawn. [Syrian] regime elements are confirming this, Russia is confirming this as well. But it is not possible to say all of them have withdrawn,” Cavusoglu said on Monday.
After Turkey launched an offensive into northeast Syria this month aimed at driving the YPG out of a planned “safe zone” along the border, Moscow and Ankara struck a deal splitting control of northeast Syria.
Under the agreement, Turkey is to keep sole control of a large section in the centre of the border area, most of which it captured during the offensive, which followed US President Donald Trump‘s abrupt decision to pull out US troops from the region.
Ankara views the YPG as “terrorists” due to their links with the outlawed Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Cavusoglu said that a Russian military delegation was heading to Turkey to discuss joint patrols, which are due to begin on Tuesday. He repeated that if the YPG did not withdraw some 30 kilometres (18 miles) from Turkey’s border, Turkish forces would “clear” them from the area.
On Sunday, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of rebels led by the YPG, said it had begun withdrawing its forces from the border area.
In a statement posted on Twitter, Turkey’s defence ministry said that Turkish commandos found a YPG tunnel in Syria’s border town of Ras al-Ain during search activities in the area.
The ministry also shared photos of the tunnel.
According to the Turkish state news agency Anadolu, YPG fighters dug tunnels to flee the approaching Turkish troops, as well as to infiltrate and carry out sudden attacks.
Meanwhile, Russian media said that a convoy of Kurdish forces had withdrawn from an area near the Turkey-Syria border overseen by Russian forces near the town of Amuda on Sunday.
Images aired on Russian television on Monday showed the SDF withdrawing some vehicles mounted with weapons, in line with the Russia-Turkey agreement reached in Sochi earlier this week.
The convoy was overseen by Russian military police, who have been assisting in the withdrawal of Kurdish forces.
“We believe that this withdrawal will contribute to the stabilisation of the situation at the Turkish-Syrian border,” said the head of Russia’s Reconciliation Centre, Sergey Romanenko.