Syria's five-day "ceasefire" runs out today
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that Russia would need to deploy additional troops and equipment to Syria after reaching an agreement with Turkey to establish joint patrols and escort Syrian Kurdish forces away from the border.
“The fact that additional equipment is needed for patrolling is obvious,” Shoigu said, according to Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti. “It’s still a long border, and the patrols should be serious and thorough, so that we don’t to leave any room for some any serious incidents, especially since patrolling will be joint.”
Shoigu also said that US had less than two hours to comply with a ceasefire agreement reached last week between Vice President Mike Pence and Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdogan, a deal that expires at 10 p.m. Moscow time Tuesday. As part of that deal, Pence said the US would withdraw the sanctions that were placed on Turkey last week once a permanent ceasefire is achieved.
The Russian defense minister suggested the Americans had until the end of a 120-hour deadline to withdraw all their forces and military equipment from Syria.
When the ceasefire ends, "everything that was written in those three items [of the deal] expire,” Shoigu said.
“They had three items, then eleven, saying they would take away all the heavy equipment and would withdraw all combat units," he said.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have withdrawn from "relevant area of operations," according to Vice President Mike Pence's office.
“Today the vice president received a letter from General Mazloum [Abdi] notifying him that all SDF forces have withdrawn from the relevant area of operations. The vice president welcomes this development and sees it as having satisfied the terms of the 17 October agreement, as pertains to the withdrawal of the YPG," Pence's press secretary Katie Waldman said.
What we know: A senior administration official said they were closely watching today's meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recip Tayyip Erdogan.
Russia and Turkey announced earlier today a wide-ranging agreement that would establish joint Russian and Turkish patrols along much of the Turkish and Syrian border within six days .
Russia and Turkey announced a wide-ranging agreement that would establish joint Russian and Turkish patrols along much of the Turkish and Syrian border within six days.
The agreement also demands that the Syrian Kurds withdraw their fighters and weapons about 18 miles away.
The agreement says Russian military police and Syrian border guards will enter the Syrian side of the Syrian-Turkish border from noon Wednesday and, over the next 150 hours, remove the YPG and their weapons, back to 18 miles from the border.
The Russian military police and Turkish military will begin patrols at 6 p.m. next Tuesday, along that line. Qamishli will not be included in the six-mile zone, and it was not clear if the agreement meant the entire Turkey-Syrian border, or just the area where the Syrian Kurds exercised control.
Turkey will keep control of the areas it has taken in their military offensive — between the towns of Tal Abyad and Ras Al Ain.
The agreement also asked the YPG or Syrian Kurds/Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to make concession outside of the current area of conflict. In the agreement, the YPG are meant to withdraw from the towns of Manbij and Tal Rifaat.
It remained unclear whether the SDF would agree to this widespread withdrawal or whether it would encompass the Syrian Kurdish population center of Kobani. Russian and regime forces have already entered the city after a Syria Kurdish invitation.
A senior administration official said they were closely watching the meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recip Tayyip Erdogan.
They said that the US would be concerned by “any agreement between President Erdogan and President Putin that would undermine the security and stability and current calm that we now have in the far northeast of Syria that we have managed to achieve since last Thursday.”
The comments came before Putin and Erdogan held a press conference.
Asked about the meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi today, a Turkish official told CNN they reached an agreement to establish a "terror-free safe zone" in northern Syria.
"We had very productive meetings with our Russian counterparts today," the official said.
"We reached an excellent agreement. We agreed to set up a terror-free safe zone in northern Syria," the Turkish official added.
A senior administration official said today that the US was committed to rolling back the sanctions imposed on Turkey last week at the end of the 120-hour ceasefire period, noting that at that point the “pause” would become a “halt” under the terms of the agreement.
“We’re in the process of preparing to do that at this time,” the official said. “When exactly we’ll do that after 1500, I don’t know, but that is a commitment that we will live up to.”
The official warned that any further “kinetic military operation” would be considered a violation of the agreement.
“Any Turkish kinetic military operation that moves forward at the end of this 120-hour period when they’re supposed to go into an even more, if you will, rigid and formal ceasefire under the name in Turkish and in English of ‘halt’ will lead to us concluding that the Turks have violated our agreement,” the official said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed steps toward the peace process in Syria and the fate of ethnic Kurds in Syria following talks today that stretched over six hours.
In remarks to the press following the meeting, Putin said the two sides discussed the “quite heated situation” along the border between Turkey and Syria and thanked his counterpart for an “open discussion.”
The two leaders met Tuesday in the southern Russian city of Sochi to discuss the future of Syria.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CNN today that Turkey and its allies may be liable for war crimes in Syria.
“I’ve seen the reports as well, we’re trying to monitor them, they are horrible, and if accurate — and I assume they are accurate – they would be war crimes,” Esper told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour during an exclusive wide-ranging interview at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia.
“I think those responsible should be held accountable. In many cases, it would be the government of Turkey," he added.
Esper was responding to a question regarding alleged human rights abuses by Turkish-aligned forces in northern Syria. In her questioning, Amanpour described an account of the alleged torture and murder of a female Kurdish politician, before raising an ongoing UN investigation into Turkey’s potential use of white phosphorus against civilians in Syria.
A report from Amnesty International published on Saturday alleged that Turkish military forces and Turkey-backed Syrian armed groups may have carried out war crimes in northeast Syria during the recent incursion.
President Trump has authorized $4.5 million in aid for the Syria Civil Defense, according to White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham.
In a statement today, Grisham said the funding would continue US support for "the organization’s important and highly valued work in the country."
"Over the course of the 8-year conflict in Syria, the SCD has rescued more than 115,000 people, including many ethnic and religious minorities. The United States encourages our allies and partners to join us in our support for the SCD and in our efforts to protect civilians, religious and ethnic minorities, and other innocent victims of the Syrian conflict," she said in the statement.