Turkey says talking with Russia over Kurdish YPG in northeast Syria

ANKARA: Turkey is discussing with Russia how to address the continued presence of Kurdish YPG fighters in areas covered by an agreement between the two countries, Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said on Thursday.
Ankara halted its incursion against the YPG last month after agreeing with Moscow for the YPG to pull out of a swathe of land east of the Euphrates river, as well as the towns of Tel Rifat and Manbij, west of the river.
Turkey has complained that the withdrawal has not been completed, and threatened to resume its offensive. But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that it was almost done, and added that Ankara had assured Moscow that it did not plan to launch a new military operation.
Akar said that Russia told Turkey on October 29 that 34,000 militants and more than 3,200 heavy weapons were removed from a 30-km deep strip of land in Syria on the Turkish border.
“Findings to the contrary are being discussed with the Russian Federation,” Akar told a parliamentary commission.
Akar said Turkey had determined that the YPG was still present in the Manbij region “wearing the clothes of the (Syrian government) regime elements”, and had asked Russia to address the issue. Talks with Russia on increasing patrols in Tel Rifat were ongoing, he said.
Turkey and Russia have backed opposing sides in Syria’s eight-year civil war but they have worked together on several fronts to broker deals between President Bashar al Assad’s forces, supported by Moscow, and the opposition, backed by Turkey.
The two countries agreed in 2018 to establish a de-escalation zone in Idlib region of northwest Syria.

The Kremlin on Thursday distanced itself from a video showing four Russian-speaking men torturing, stabbing and beheading a Syrian man in 2017 and said the incident had nothing to do with Russia’s military.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he had not seen the footage, but said: “I am certain that this has no relation to Russian military operations in Syria.”
Part of the video, obtained by the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, first appeared in June 2017, before new recordings emerged this month.
The gruesome footage shows a man being beaten with a sledgehammer and decapitated with a spade before being strung up by his legs and his body set on fire.
Earlier this month, Arabic news outlet Jesr Press identified the victim as Mohammed Taha Ismail al Abdullah, a Syrian national.
The men responsible recorded their own video footage and made jokes as they dismembered the body.
When asked whether the Kremlin would look into the footage, given that it involved Russian speakers, Peskov said the Kremlin is not an investigative body. — Reuters