Russia has promised to remove Turkish forces and their Syrian proxies from a strategic highway in northeast Syria and replace them with Russian military police, according to the spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Speaking to Rudaw in northeast Syria on Thursday, Mustafa Bali, head of SDF’s media centre, said: “Russian forces have made such a promise and they are in negotiations with Turkey. Some positive steps have been taken.”
He added that Turkey and its Syrian militiamen have already withdrawn from some areas, including a power station in Mabrouka, Hasaka province.
“Russian military police will work on this step by step, and have pledged that all armed forces will be removed from the M4 highway and Russian military police will control it so that roads are open for civilians,” Bali said.
Turkey and its Syrian proxies attacked the SDF in northern Syria on October 9, taking control of Sari Kani (Ras al-Ain) and Gire Spi (Tel Abyad). Clashes continue despite two Turkish deals with the US and Russia.
Turkey’s stated aim was to push 32 km deep from its southern border into Syrian territory, but it later threatened to march deeper if Kurdish forces failed to withdraw from the area. The SDF and Russia say Kurdish forces have withdrawn.
The 32 km depth is very close to the M4 highway, creating controversy over whether or not the road falls within Turkey’s so-called “safe zone”.
Mazloum Abdi, commander of the SDF, told Rudaw in early November that, as per the Turkey-US deal, “our forces had to stay where they were, except we had promised to withdraw to beyond the M4 international road.”
There have been several recent meetings between the SDF and Russian officials since Moscow boosted its presence in the region.