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    Russia and Turkey signed a memorandum to help stabilise the situation in northeast Syria last week, committing the Syrian Kurdish self-defence forces to withdrawing to a distance of 30 kilometres from the Syria-Turkish border, with Syrian Army forces and Russian military police units deploying to keep the peace in the area.

    Syrian Army forces have moved from Qamishli, the capital of the de-facto Kurdish autonomous territory known as Rojava, into the surrounding countryside, receiving a warm welcome from local residents, the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) has reported, accompanying its report with footage of troops waving Syrian national flags, chanting and gesturing the victory sign.

    According to SANA’s correspondent, the forces entered the village of Umm al-Keif in Hasaka province. The Army was said to have expanded its deployments across the northeastern Syrian region to protect local residents from possible attacks. The correspondent also confirmed that Russian military police had been deployed to the city of Qamishli proper, and that they were engaged in peacekeeping patrols there.

    Earlier, SANA published footage of Russian units demonstratively moving through the centre of the northeastern Syrian city.

    Qamishli is the largest city in Syria’s Hasaka province, and came under the control of local Kurdish forces in 2012, as a result of the escalation of the foreign-backed civil conflict in Syria.

    Last week, media published footage reportedly showing city residents pelting withdrawing US forces with tomatoes and shouting “America liar” and chanting “America is running away” in Arabic.

    The Turkish-Kurdish conflict which escalated earlier this month when Ankara launched 'Operation Peace Spring' has unexpectedly helped Damascus restore sovereignty over territories long held by the US-backed Kurds, with Qamishli one of a series of settlements across the Aleppo, Raqqa and Hasakah provinces to declare allegiance to the Syrian government due to the inability of the Kurdish forces to protect the local population.

    Turkey launched its operation on October 9, ostensibly to clear the territory of Daesh terrorists and Kurdish YPG forces. Turkey’s decision sparked mass criticism from its NATO allies, who consider the Kurds as the main pro-Western forces to assist in the battle against Daesh.

    Last week, the United States and Turkey reached an agreement for a 120-hour ceasefire in the region to allow for the withdrawal of Kurdish fighters. As that ceasefire reached its end, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met in the Russian city of Sochi to hammer out a deal ensuring the pullout of Kurdish forces from the border area and the establishment of joint patrols in the operation zone. The Syrian Army and Russia have also established patrols along the border area to keep the peace.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan during their meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia
    © Sputnik / Alexei Druzhinin
    Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan during their meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia

    This week, Russia’s defence ministry announced the deployment of a contingent of 300 military police personnel from a unit normally stationed in Russia’s Chechnya to help maintain law and order in northern Syria, with the troops accompanied by over two dozen armoured vehicles.

    Rojava, also known as the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, was set up in territory held by the Kurdish-dominated, formerly US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces without the official support of the Syrian government; most of its territory was won through a brutal fight with Daesh (ISIS)*; Turkey, which fears its own decades-old Kurdish pro-autonomy movement, has denounced the Kurdish Self-Defence Units (YPG), the backbone of the SDF, as terrorists and launched a campaign into northeast Syria before bringing it to a halt after the Putin-Erdogan talks.

    Syria was plunged into a brutal foreign-backed civil conflict in 2011 during the wave of Arab Spring protests that rocked the Middle East, with the government facing off against a hodgepodge of rebel groups and terrorists from al-Qaeda, Daesh, and other groups. With the help of its Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah allies, Damascus first stabilised the situation, and then went on to liberate most of the territories held by the terrorists. The conflict has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, and helped spark the refugee crisis which rocked Europe starting in 2015. Damascus is now set on rebuilding the country, although President Bashar Assad has estimated that the process may require up to $400 billion, and take over a decade to complete. In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of refugees have returned to the country over the past two years.

    *Terrorist groups banned in Russia and many other countries.

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