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Turkey, Russia reviewing deployment in Syria’s Tel Rifaat region – Turkish VP

Turkish Armed Forces' tanks are being dispatched from Hatay to support the units at the Syrian's Idlib border, in Hatay, Turkey on January 11, 2019 [Erdal Türkoğlu / Anadolu Agency]
Tanks belonging to the Turkish Armed Forces are being sent to Syria's border on 11 January 2019 [Erdal Türkoğlu/Anadolu Agency]

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, Reuters reports.

On Saturday, four Turkish soldiers were killed and two others wounded in two separate attacks by Kurdish militants from Tel Rifaat and northern Iraq, the Turkish defence ministry said, adding that the army had retaliated in both cases and killed 28 militants.

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.

Separately, security sources said on Sunday that Turkish air strikes had killed five Kurdish militants in northern Iraq as part of an operation launched to retaliate against the cross-border attacks a day earlier.

READ: 2 Turkish soldiers wounded in Syria’s Idlib 

The air strikes targeted the area across the border from the southeastern province of Hakkari, the sources said, adding that the army’s operation in the region continued.

Turkey’s military has 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 defence ministry said Turkish and Russian forces had carried out the first “independent and coordinated” patrols in Tel Rifaat.

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