Russia strikes deal with Syrian Kurds to set up base near Aleppo

Russia strikes deal with Syrian Kurds to set up base: Syrian Kurdish militia

 

 

 

Russia is setting up a military base in northwestern Syria in agreement with the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia that controls the area and will be training YPG fighters as part of the fight against terrorism, the militia’s spokesman said on Monday.

YPG spokesman Redur Xelil told Reuters the agreement with Russia was concluded on Sunday, and that Russian troops had already arrived at the position in the northwestern region of Afrin with troop carriers and armored vehicles.

The move will likely anger neighboring Turkey. Ankara views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is waging an insurgency inside Turkey.

“The Russian presence … comes in agreement between (the YPG) and the Russian forces operating in Syria in the framework of cooperation against terrorism and to help train our forces on modern warfare and to build a direct point of contact with Russian forces,” Xelil said in a written statement.

“It is the first (agreement) of its kind,” he added.

Turkey has launched a cross-border offensive along a section of the Turkish-Syrian frontier to prevent further gains by the YPG, which controls swathes of northeastern Syria and the Afrin pocket of northwestern Syria.

The YPG is also allied to the United States in the fight against Islamic State in Syria, and is playing a major part in the U.S.-backed offensive against Islamic State’s urban stronghold of Raqqa, further east.

“The agreement came into force today,” Xelil said, declining to say how many Russian troops had arrived in Jandaris, the place where the base is being established.

Jandaris has previously been shelled by Turkish forces from across the nearby frontier, Xelil added.

(Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Samia Nakhoul and Gareth Jones)

 

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Russia summoned Israeli ambassador over Syria strikes

 

 

MOSCOW, March 20 — Russia’s foreign ministry today said it had summoned Israel’s ambassador over air strikes close to Moscow’s forces near the historic Syrian city of Palmyra.

Deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov told Interfax news agency that Ambassador Gary Koren was summoned on Friday and “asked about” the strikes.

The ministry “expressed concern” about the action taking place near Russian military locations, Bogdanov said.

Russia — which is conducting its own bombing campaign in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad — said earlier this month that more than 180 of its troops have started demining around Palmyra’s ancient monuments.

Russia and Israel have set up a “hotline” aimed at avoiding air clashes over Syria and Bogdanov said Moscow “would like this channel to work more effectively” to ensure no “misunderstanding on who is doing what.”

Israeli warplanes struck several targets on Friday, prompting retaliatory Syrian missile launches, in the most serious incident between the two countries since the war began six years ago.

Israel’s military said it had been targeting weapons bound for Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, which backs Assad in Syria.

Syria’s military said it had downed an Israeli plane and hit another as they were carrying out pre-dawn strikes near Palmyra, the famed desert city it recaptured from jihadists this month.

The Israeli military denied that any planes had been hit.

Yesterday, Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman threatened to destroy Syria’s air defence systems “without the slightest hesitation” if there was a similar incident.

Russia has deployed its own high-tech missile defence systems to Syria to protect its forces there. — AFP