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YPG terrorists still not fully cleared from Syria safe zone, Erdogan says

Turkish President and leader of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during his party's parliamentary group meeting at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in Ankara, Turkey, on November 5, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says militants from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) have not fully withdrawn from border areas of the so-called safe zone in northern Syria as specified in the agreements with Russia and the United States, and that US forces are still carrying out joint patrols with the militants.

“We know that there are still terrorists in the planned safe zone. These areas are not cleared of terrorists. Terrorists have not been taken out of either (the northwestern Syrian cities of) Tal Rifaat or Manbij,” Erdogan told a parliamentary group meeting of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in the capital Ankara on Tuesday.

He added that the militants beyond the safe zone borders were organizing attacks on Turkish security forces.

“We will not be an onlooker to this situation. We will do what is necessary as we did before.

“Turkey will continue its fight until the last terrorist is neutralized in Turkey, Syria and Iraq,” Erdogan said.

The Turkish president highlighted that Ankara would abide by its deals as long as Washington and Moscow kept their promises.

Erdogan said that US forces were still holding joint patrols with the YPG militants inside the 30-kilometers border strip from which the Kurdish forces were supposed to withdraw.

“How can we explain America holding patrols with terrorist organizations in this region even though they made the decision to withdraw? This is not in our agreement,” he said.

He also criticized the US for being insincere regarding Turkey’s anti-terror efforts.

"We have been subjected to a hidden embargo for fighting against terrorists,” Erdogan said, referring to some western countries' refusal to sell weapons and other devices in the wake of the Turkish cross-border incursion into northern Syria.

Turkey, Russia conduct 2nd round of joint Syria patrols

Also on Tuesday, Turkish and Russian troops in armored vehicles conducted the second round of joint patrols in northern Syria near the Kurdish-populated town of Kobani, officially Ayn al-Arab, under a deal that has forced YPG militants away from Turkey's border.

According to Turkey's Defense Ministry, Turkish and Russian military elements and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) participated in the patrol, which lasted two hours.

Syrian army starts deploying units to Qamishli 

Meanwhile, Syria’s official news agency SANA reported that units of government forces are being deployed to the eastern countryside of the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli on the border with Turkey in the face of a cross-border incursion by Turkish army troops and their allied militants against Kurdish YPG forces.

Syrian government forces are seen in the eastern country side of Syria’s northeastern city of Qamishli on the border with Turkey on November 5, 2019. (Photo by SANA)

On October 22, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart signed a memorandum of understanding that asserted YPG militants must withdraw from the Turkish-controlled "safe zone" in northeastern Syria within 150 hours, after which Ankara and Moscow will run joint patrols around the area.

The announcement was made hours before a US-brokered five-day truce between Turkish and Kurdish-led forces was due to expire.

On October 9, Turkish military forces and Ankara-backed militants launched a long-threatened cross-border invasion of northeastern Syria in a declared attempt to push YPG militants from border areas.

Ankara views the US-backed YPG as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since 1984. The YPG constitutes the backbone of the Kurdish-dominated so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

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