Russia to Help Turkey Expand Buffer Zone in Syria

Russia agreed to help Turkey drive out Kurdish militias from a “safe zone” in northeastern Syria, highlighting Moscow’s flourishing ties with a NATO member and a rebalance of power in war-torn Syria as U.S. troops leave, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would suspend military action for nearly six days against Kurds whom his government views as a terrorist threat to let them evacuate the area. During this period, Russian and Syrian security forces would push any remaining Kurdish fighters away from Turkey’s border.

After their departure, Turkey and Russia plan to conduct joint patrols in parts of a 300-mile-long area along Turkey’s border with Syria, Erdogan said Tuesday after talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The pact “could be a turning point,” Putin said in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi.

Russia and Turkey are seeking to divide influence in Syria as U.S. troops are withdrawing and Washington’s power in the region wanes. Putin has displayed a willingness to help Erdogan, in part to lure Turkey, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, toward Russia’s orbit.

Russian support for Turkey’s plan is likely to upset Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s other backer, Iran, which has condemned Turkey’s assault against the Syrian Kurds.

President Trump’s sudden withdrawal order was criticized by Republican and Democratic senators at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, with many saying the move undermined an array of U.S. foreign-policy objectives, empowered U.S. foes and undercut the fight against the Islamic State extremist group.

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