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Turkey claims Kurdish YPG has not fully withdrawn from Syria border

The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) have not fully withdrawn from Syrian-Turkish border territory as agreed in a Russia-brokered accord, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has said, as Turkey prepares to discuss its next steps with Russia, Aljazeera reported.

“There are those who have withdrawn.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 But it is not possible to say all of them have withdrawn,” Çavuşoğlu said on Monday.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 center 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 Turkish-based Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Çavuşoğlu 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 kilometers (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 Defense Ministry said 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 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Meanwhile, Russian media said that a convoy of Kurdish forces had withdrawn from an area near the Turkish-Syrian border overseen by Russian forces near the town of Amuda on Sunday.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 stabilization of the situation at the Turkish-Syrian border,” said the head of Russia’s Reconciliation Center, Sergey Romanenko.

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