Russia says it has sent reinforcements to an area in northern Syria where militants supported by the Turkish government and Kurdish fighters patronized by Washington have been engaged in clashes in the vicinity of a strategic highway.
In October 2019, Turkey launched a cross-border invasion of northeastern Syria in a declared attempt to push the US-backed militants affiliated with the so-called People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara views as a terrorist group, and controls swathes of northern and eastern Syria, away from its borders.
Two weeks after the invasion, Russia and Turkey signed a memorandum of understanding that forced the YPG militants to withdraw from the Turkish-controlled ‘safe zone’ in the region. Since then, the Turkish and Russian militaries have been conducting joint patrols around the area.
Earlier this month, clashes erupted between Turkey-backed militants and the YPG near the town of Ain Issa, which sits on the M4 highway linking major Syrian cities.
Late Sunday, the Russian Defense Ministry said it had sent more military servicemen to the flash point.
“Earlier, during negotiations with the Turkish side, agreements were reached on the deployment of joint Russian-Syrian observation posts. Additional units of the Russian military police have arrived in the Ain Issa area today (Sunday) to step up efforts to stabilize the situation,” it said.
Russia, whose fighter jets patrol the area, has urged both sides to de-escalate.
The defense ministry said the Russian military had not detected shelling from Turkish-backed militants in the previous 24 hours.
Sending reinforcements to the area by the Russian military comes ahead of negotiations in Russia between Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu. The duo are expected to focus in part on the situation in Syria.
Ankara supports anti-Damascus militants and militia, but Moscow is a close ally to the Syrian government.
Turkey has so far wrested control of several areas in northern Syria in addition to other Kurdish-controlled areas. Damascus views the Turkish military presence on the Syrian soil as an attack on its sovereignty.
In contrast, Russia, upon an official request from Damascus, has been conducting airstrikes against positions of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group and other terror factions in Syria since September 2015.