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International News

Russia and Turkey Come to an Agreement Regarding Syria

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Russia and Turkey Come to an Agreement Regarding Syria

2019-10-23 11:57:231 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Image source: Screenshot)

By pulling U.S. troops out of Syria, Donald Trump has handed it over to other forces. The fate of the country is now being decided by Turkish President Recept Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

On Tuesday the two leaders agreed on a plan that will push the Kurds from territory south of the shared border with Turkey after meeting in Sochi. It will leave that territory, that was formerly held by the Kurds, in the control of Turkey and Russia. 

This is what Russia was aiming for, as it puts Syrian President Bashar al-Assad back in control of that territory in the country's civil war. Russia is also trying to get states in that region to accept the Syrian government's authority.

Last week Turkey had forged a deal with the United States on a temporary cease-fire. While Turkey held back on its advance into Syria, the U.S. agreed to remove the Kurds from a territory along the border, to lift sanctions, and to refrain from imposing more. 

Hours after that deal expired, a Trump administration official said the Kurds had confirmed they'd withdrawn from the area and that Turkey was believed to have stopped advancing.

"Good news seems to be happening with respect to Turkey, Syria, and the Middle East," tweeted Trump on Tuesday evening. "Further reports to come later!" 

The Russian/Turkish deal called for Russia and the Syrian government to begin removing Kurdish fighters from a larger area of the border from the Euphrates River to Iraq beginning on Wednesday at noon. Once they are completely removed, Turkey and Russia will patrol the border together.

All this has happened because Trump removed U.S. forces from the area, abandoning the Kurds, who have fought the Islamic State alongside U.S. troops. A few days before Trump made the announcement to remove the troops, he spoke on the phone with Erdogan. With no U.S. troops, it allowed Turkey to advance into Syria. 

Turkey and Syrian rebels began fighting the Kurds, forcing many to flee their Syrian homes, with dozens of people killed on both sides of the border.

Heavily criticized by both Democrats and Republicans for this move, the White House sent Vice President Mike Pence to Turkey to convince Erdogan to stop the military attack. But with the U.S. having withdrawn from the area, Pence didn't have much to work with, and it seemed more like an approval of Turkey's actions. 

A large group of U.S. military vehicles crossed the border Syria shares with Iraq on Monday, showing its shift, but the Iraqi military said the following day that they would have to leave.

"There is no agreement for these forces to stay in Iraq," said an Iraqi military statement. 

"The aim isn't to stay in Iraq interminably," said Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper. "The aim is to pull our soldiers out and eventually get them back home."

Back in the U.S., several bipartisan bills have been introduced with demands that Turkey be sanctioned. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduced a resolution denouncing Turkey's invasion of Syria and demanding Trump stop pulling U.S. forces out of the region. 

The U.S. special envoy for Syria, James Jeffrey, appeared at a Senate hearing. He was repeatedly questioned whether he had been consulted in the decision to withdraw from Syria. He said he hadn't but insisted Trump had not approved Turkey's attack.

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