UPDATES WITH TURKEY AND RUSSIA CONCLUDING 3RD JOINT PATROLS, CHANGES HEADLINE AND LEAD, ADDS INFO ON PATROLS
By Burak Bir and Ali Murat Alhas
ANKARA (AA) - Turkish and Russian troops completed their third joint ground patrols in northern Syria as part of an agreed-upon deal, according to Turkey’s National Defense Ministry on Friday.
The ministry said in a tweet that the patrols were carried out between Qamishli and Derik cities, east of the Euphrates, which were cleared of terrorists by Turkey, and continued for three hours and forty-five minutes.
They were backed by drones and four armored vehicles of the Turkish army, the statement added.
The third round of patrols marked a first for the Turkish army as it crossed into eastern Qamishli for the very first time, with many reporters watching the developments closely.
The first joint ground patrol which lasted for four hours was completed on Nov. 1. It took place 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of Ras al-Ayn and 30 km (18.6 mi) west of Qamishli.
On Nov. 5, the two countries conducted the second joint ground patrols which lasted two hours east of Ayn al-Arab and west of Tal Abyad districts .
Ras al-Ayn and Tal Abyad were cleared of terrorists during Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring -- launched on Oct. 9 to eliminate terrorists from northern Syria east of the Euphrates River in order to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.
Ankara wants YPG/PKK terrorists to withdraw from the region so that a safe zone can be created to pave the way for the safe return of some 2 million refugees.
On Oct. 22, Ankara and Moscow reached a deal under which YPG/PKK terrorists will pull back 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) south of Turkey’s border with Syria, and security forces from Turkey and Russia will mount joint patrols there.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union -- has been responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children and infants. The YPG is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK.