Turkey says Kurdish attacks continue in northeast Syria despite deal with Russia

Armed groups linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) continue their presence in a safe zone area in northeast Syria despite a deal made between Turkey and Russia last year, Turkish Defence Ministry said on Saturday.

Turkey sees the Kurdish People Protection Units (YPG) in Syria as an extension of the PKK, which has been fighting inside Turkey for more than three decades. 

“Despite the agreement with the Russian Federation on October 22, 2019, PKK/YPG terrorists continue their presence in the western and eastern regions of the Peace Spring area and conduct harassment fire against our elements,” the ministry said on Twitter. “Harassments are properly reciprocated,” it said.

Turkey launched the Operation Peace Spring in October to clear northeast Syria of Kurdish YPG, saying the group’s presence posed a threat to its national security.

Turkey’s incursion ended in nine days after Ankara made two separate agreements with the United States and Russia.

Ankara and Moscow agreed to establish a 30 km deep safe zone along a 444 km stretch of the border between Turkey and Syria. Russia promised to ensure the withdrawal of the YPG from the safe zone area. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said last week that both the safe zone deal and the Sochi agreement made with Russia to escalate the situation in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib were failing. Erdoğan accused Moscow of not honouring the terms of the two separate deals.