Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on Tuesday in the Russian city of Sochi that the Kurdish YPG militia must withdraw from the area around the Turkish-Syrian border. The Turks and the Russians will also carry out joint patrols in the border area.
In addition, Ankara and Moscow have agreed to work to ensure that Syrian refugees in Turkey return safely to their homeland. Erdogan and Putin held an hour-long conversation on Tuesday about the situation in Syria.
The five-day ceasefire that Turkey and the United States agreed earlier was in force until Tuesday evening. The agreement stipulated that Kurdish fighters would withdraw from northeastern Syria. According to the Kurds, they have met this agreement.
Turkey launched an offensive in northeastern Syria last Wednesday, shortly after US President Donald Trump had decided to remove US troops from that area.
Erdogan wants to create a "safe zone" without Kurdish forces along the border of Turkey. He regards these forces as a whole as part of the PKK. The Kurdish separation movement has been conducting an armed struggle against the Turkish state for almost 35 years.
Al Assad calls Erdogan 'a thief'
Syrian president Bashar Al Assad lashed out at the Turkish president on Tuesday. "Erdogan is a thief and he steals our land," he said.
Al Assad visited the Syrian city of Hobeit on Tuesday, which the Syrian army captured in August during an Russia-led offensive. The president also took a rare look at the front line in the province of Idlib.
The risk of collisions between Syria and Turkey has increased since the Kurds asked the Al Assad government for help after the Turkish invasion of the area.
However, Russia, the main ally of Al Assad, said last week that it would not allow Turkish and Syrian forces to fight each other. Since 2015, Russian troops have been stationed in Syria.
See also: These are the key players in the Turkish invasion of northern Syria
More than 7,100 Syrians fled to Iraq
Because of the flared up violence in Northeast Syria, a total of more than 200,000 inhabitants of the region have already fled. Over 7,100 refugees have crossed the border with Iraq last week, reports the UN refugee organization UNHCR Tuesday. Most of them reported to the Iraqi refugee camp Bardarash, about 140 kilometers east of the Iraqi-Syrian border, according to the relief organization.
"Three quarters are women or children. There are also single children. Some refugees, especially children, need psychosocial help," the UNHCR said.
The camp in Bardarash was originally intended for people who fled Mosul in 2014 because of IS. The camp was closed last year because it was relatively safe for Syrians to return to Mosul. Bardarash has recently reopened for the new refugee flow from north-east Syria.
Syrian refugees arrive at the Iraqi refugee camp. (Photo: Doctors without Borders / Hassan Kamal Al Deen)
"Most refugees are depressed and anxious"
In addition to the UN refugee organization, Médecins Sans Frontières, among others, also started providing medical assistance in the border area in Iraq this week.
"The people who have arrived so far are relatively healthy. We have not yet seen any war wounded people and, in general, children and adults have not been malnourished. such as skin problems, respiratory tract infections, diarrhea and body aches, "says Marius Martinelli, MSF project manager.
According to him, most Syrian refugees show signs of depression and anxiety.
Last week, Médecins Sans Frontières decided to stop aid in Northeast Syria because the aid organization could not guarantee the safety of its staff. International employees were then evacuated.
The refugee camp in Bardarash has been re-prepared. (Photo: Doctors without Borders / Hassan Kamal Al Deen)
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