Turkish and Russian forces carried out another joint patrol in northern Syria on Tuesday, while President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Kurdish militants had yet to completely withdraw from the region.
“The second joint patrol... began in the region of Ayn al-Arab (Kobani) to the east of the Euphrates,” the Turkish defense ministry said in a statement.
The patrols are aimed at ensuring the withdrawal of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) under an agreement reached on October 22 between Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi.
The first patrol was carried out on Friday.
“We know there are still terrorists inside the borders of the safe zone that we have outlined. Know that no one can fool us by saying, ‘We have made the terrorists leave there’,” Erdogan said in a speech to his party in Ankara.
Turkey launched its operation in northern Syria last month with the aim of creating a “safe zone” that would push the YPG back from the border and create space to repatriate Syrian refugees.
It took control of a 120-kilometre stretch of territory, including the towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain.
Under the Sochi accord, Russia agreed to joint patrols with Turkey in that area and to work to remove the YPG from adjacent regions with the help of the Syrian army.
Erdogan also criticized patrols carried out by the United States alongside Kurdish militants near the Turkish border last week.
“Unfortunately, America is carrying out its own patrols with YPG terrorists... Such a thing is not possible,” Erdogan said.
He added that it was not yet certain if he would go ahead with a planned visit to Washington on November 13 -- and he would decide after a call with Trump.
Relations between Ankara and Washington - already strained on multiple fronts - were worsened last week when the US Congress voted to recognize the massacre of Armenians in the early 20th century by the Ottomans as a genocide - a highly sensitive topic in Turkey.