ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - Maria Zakharova, the spokesperson for Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told reporters on Thursday that Kurdish units in northern Syria had withdrawn from the border with Turkey.
“We continue to implement the memorandum of October 22 focusing on the area east of the Euphrates River in conjunction with Ankara,” she said.
She continued, claiming that Russia’s efforts toward this end are focused on “preventing a resumption of hostilities” between the US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Turkey “and improve the humanitarian situation.”
“To resolve the first problem,” she said, “the Kurdish units were withdrawn from the border with Turkey, regular joint patrols were established, a demilitarised zone was created along the perimeter of the Operation Peace Spring, and a Russian-Turkish coordination centre is now operational.”
Turkey launched the so-called “Peace Spring” Operation on Oct. 9, causing the displacement of thousands and the death of dozens of civilians. The campaign was put on hold after the US and Russia struck separate deals with Erdogan to allow the withdrawal of Kurdish forces from a planned buffer zone Turkey calls a “safe zone.”
Zakharova argued that controlling stability on the eastern banks of the Euphrates River and along the Idlib de-escalation zone is still difficult since these areas are “beyond the control of the Syrian government.”
She also referred to Turkish-backed armed groups that killed eight Kurdish children by shelling civilian-populated areas in early December as “jihadists.”
The Russian official added, “Terrorists continue to shell nearby areas, endangering the civilians inside and outside the de-escalation zone.”
On Tuesday, Commander-in-Chief of the SDF, General Mazloum Abdi, called on both the United States and Russia to prevent Ankara’s program of forced demographic change in northern Syria.
During an interview on the previous day with the government-affiliated TRT news outlet, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey aims to resettle up to one million Syrian refugees in the so-called “safe zone” now under its control, many of them from other parts of the country.
General Abdi said that the remarks by the Turkish president were alarming and proof of an attempt by Turkey to ethnically cleanse the area, located along the Turkish-Syrian border between the cities of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain (Serekaniye), of much of its Kurdish population.
“We call on the US and Russia, who bear the responsibility of preventing this, to work on a mechanism to facilitate [the] return of the true owners of the land.”
Editing by John J. Catherine