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Turkey, Russia discuss release of Syrian war prisoners — top brass

Eighteen servicemen are in question

MOSCOW, October 31. /TASS/. The Turkish and Russian military are discussing the release of 18 Syrian war prisoners captured in the northern part of the country by military formations supporting Ankara, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar stated on Thursday.

"We are holding talks with the Russian side regarding the handover of 18 detained servicemen of the regime [Syrian government army — TASS]. Two of them were injured, they have received medical aid," the NTV channel quotes the minister as saying. Akar also said that the military command "informed President [of Turkey Recep Tayyip] Erdogan on the situation and received the corresponding orders."

On October 29, the Al Arabiya TV channel informed, citing Kurdish sources, that units of the Syrian opposition had captured Syrian soldiers in the Tell-Tamer settlement in northeastern Syria, where clashes between the Turkish forces and the Syrian army took place.

On October 9, Turkey launched a military incursion into northern Syria, codenaming it Operation Peace Spring, with the Turkish Armed Forces and the Ankara-backed Free Syrian Army carrying it out. Erdogan’s military campaign kicked off with airstrikes on the positions of the previously US-backed Kurdish units. The Erdogan government claimed that its goal is to clear the border area of what it calls ‘terrorists’ (Turkey’s broad label of the Kurdish forces) and establish a 30 km-long buffer zone in Syria’s north, where over 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey would resettle. Ankara’s incursion into Syria has triggered an outcry in the region and across the world. The Syrian SANA news agency branded the operation as an act of aggression, while the international community condemned Erdogan’s military operation.

On October 22, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed a memorandum on joint actions in northeastern Syria. According to the document, as of noon October 23, Russian military police and Syrian border guards started to monitor the withdrawal of Kurdish military formations to the depth of 30 km from the border. Russia and Turkey will then begin the joint patrolling of the area. On the outcomes of the agreement, Ankara stated that it had suspended its large-scale military operation in the area. However, Turkey retains control over the territories where it plans to relocate Syrian refugees in the future.

The deadline for the Kurdish forces to withdraw expired on October 29, 18:00 local time. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated on Wednesday that Turkey and Russia would begin joint patrolling in northeastern Syria on Friday.