Turkey is in talks with Russia on handing over 18 Syrian regime army members who were captured during search activities southeast of Ras Al-Ayn, Syria, in the area of Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring, Turkey’s defense minister said on Thursday.
“There are talks with Russians on the handover of 18 people, who were learned to be regime army members, to Russians,” Hulusi Akar said during the inspection of border troops in Turkey’s Sanliurfa province, near the border with Syria.
“We presented the developments about the issue to our President [Recep Tayyip Erdogan] and received instructions,” Akar said.
On Tuesday, Turkey’s National Defense Ministry said on Twitter that during a search southeast of Ras al-Ayn, 18 persons claimed to be elements of the Syrian regime were taken into custody.
The area comes under Turkey’s anti-terror Operation Peace Spring, which was launched on Oct. 9 to eliminate terrorists from northern Syria east of the Euphrates River in order to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees, and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.
On Oct. 22, Turkey and Russia reached a deal under which YPG/PKK terrorists would pull back 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) south of Turkey’s border with northern Syria within 150 hours, and security forces from Turkey and Russia would conduct joint patrols there.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union — has been responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children and infants. The YPG is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK.
On Turkey’s procurement of the Russian S-400 missile systems, Akar said: “Efforts to make these air defense systems work full capacity will continue until spring 2020.”
Turkey received two batches of the S-400 missiles, the first one in July and the second in September.
*Writing by Sena Guler
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