ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish and Russian officials are reviewing deployment of their forces in the Syrian border region of Tel Rifaat, Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Sunday, a day after cross-border fire from the area killed one Turkish soldier.
Two separate attacks on Saturday by Kurdish militants from Tel Rifaat and northern Iraq killed a total of four Turkish soldiers and wounded two others, Turkey’s defense ministry said.
The army retaliated in both cases, killing 28 militants, it said. Security sources later reported five additional militant deaths. [nL5N22G0IO]
In an interview with broadcaster Kanal 7, Oktay said Turkey and Russia were discussing developments in the region and that Turkish military operations along the border would continue until all threats had been eliminated.
“The agreement was for us to stop there (Tel Rifaat), but if these attacks continue, this may take a different shape. We are discussing this with Russia,” Oktay said.
Turkish air strikes launched in retaliation to Saturday’s attacks targeted the area across the border from the southeastern province of Hakkari, the sources said, adding that the army’s operations in the region continued.
Two civilians in the Silopi district of neighboring Sirnak province were killed on Sunday after militants from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) detonated a roadside bomb.
Turkey’s military launched an operation in the region to find the militants, the defense ministry said in a statement, during which two Turkish soldiers were killed. It said the operation in the area, supported by Turkish jets, was ongoing.
Turkish forces have regularly carried out air strikes against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq. It shelled positions held by the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia in the Tel Rifaat region earlier this year, saying this was in response to YPG fire.
Tel Rifaat is controlled by Kurdish-led forces and is located some 20 km (13 miles) east of Afrin, which has been under the control of Turkey and its Free Syrian Army allies since an operation last year to drive out the YPG.
Turkey, a major backer of rebel groups fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has conducted patrols with Russia, one of Assad’s main allies, in northern areas under agreements reached last year.
In March, the defense ministry said Turkish and Russian forces had carried out the first “independent and coordinated” patrols in Tel Rifaat.
Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by John Stonestreet and Dale Hudson
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