Smoke rises over the Syrian town of Ras al Ain, as seen from the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar, in Sanliurfa Province, October 16, 2019. (Photo: VCG)
Syrian army troops clashed with Turkish forces near the border town of Ras al Ain on Wednesday, Syrian state media reported, as Ankara said it reserved the right to launch another cross-border offensive against the Kurdish YPG militia.
Syrian media said Turkish troops had seized villages on the edge of Ras al Ain. Turkish-backed rebels said there had been intermittent clashes between Turkish and Syrian troops in recent days south of the town, which Turkey seized from Syrian Kurdish-led forces earlier this month.
The report underscores the risk that violence in northeast Syria could resume after Ankara struck separate deals with Washington and Moscow to push the YPG at least 30 kilometers south of the border.
As part of Turkey's deal with Russia, Syrian troops have with the agreement of Kurdish forces headed north to take up positions near the border, a region Damascus has not controlled since early on in the country's eight-and-a-half-year-old war.
In Ankara, President Tayyip Erdogan told lawmakers from his AK Party that Turkey has information the YPG has not completed its pull-out, despite assurances from Russia on Tuesday that about 34,000 Kurdish forces and 3,600 heavy weapons had withdrawn at least 30 kilometers away from the Syria-Turkey border.
"Even though the information in our hands suggests this has not succeeded in a full sense, we will give our response to them after our field assessments," he said.
Syrian Kurdish Asayish internal security forces and Russian military police patrol the town of Darbasiyah in Syria's northeastern Hasakeh province along the Syria-Turkey border, October 30, 2019. (Photo: VCG)
Ankara views the YPG as a terrorist organization because of its links to Kurdish militants in southeast Turkey, and aims to establish a "safe zone" in northern Syria cleared of the group.
"If we see that the members of the terrorist organization have not been moved out of the 30 km, or if attacks continue, no matter from where, we reserve our right to carry out our own operation," Erdogan said.
The YPG is the main component in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that fought for years alongside U.S. forces to shatter the Syrian half of the "caliphate" declared by ISIL militants in northeast Syria and neighboring Iraq.
Turkish-backed forces crossed into northeast Syria on October 9 to attack the YPG after President Donald Trump's abrupt withdrawal of U.S. forces there a few days earlier, drawing international condemnation of Ankara.
Joint Russian-Turkish patrols had been set to begin on Tuesday at a depth of 10 kilometers inside Syria, but Erdogan said they would begin on Friday and at a depth of just 7 kilometers, after a Russian delegation held three days of talks in Ankara seeking agreement on cooperation.