Turkish, Russian forces carry out patrols in Kurdish-controlled Syrian region: Turkish ministry

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish and Russian forces carried out the first “independent and coordinated” patrols in the mainly Kurdish-controlled northern Syrian region of Tel Rifaat, Turkey’s defense ministry said on Tuesday.

Tel Rifaat is controlled by Kurdish-led forces and is located some 20 km east of Afrin, which has been under the control of Turkey and its Free Syrian Army (FSA) allies since an operation last year to drive out the Kurdish YPG militia.

Ankara considers the YPG to be a terrorist organization. Turkey shelled YPG militia positions in the Tel Rifaat region earlier this year, saying it was responding to YPG harassment fire.

“In order to establish ceasefire and stability, prevent attacks on our forces in the Tel Rifaat region... Turkish and Russian Armed Forces carried out the first independent, coordinated patrols,” the ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

Turkey’s military has so far launched two cross-border operations into Syria against the YPG militia, which Ankara considers an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.

Turkey, which has long been one of the main backers of rebel groups fighting against President Bashar al-Assad, has conducted patrols with Russia, one of Assad’s main allies, in northern areas under agreements reached last year.

Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz; Writing by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Sarah Dadouch