Comment: And so Damascus regains more territory, step-by-step...

putin erdogan sochi
© Reuters / Mustafa Kamaci
Russian military police and Syrian servicemen will be deployed to northeastern Syria, while Turkey's operation 'Peace Spring' will continue in a limited area, presidents of the two countries have agreed after lengthy talks.

Moscow understands the reasons behind the ongoing Turkish military incursion into Syria, Putin said, though he stressed it must not play into the hands of terrorists and that the territorial integrity of Syria must be preserved. Ultimately, the country must be freed from all "illegal foreign military presence," the President added, reiterating Moscow's long-time position.

The almost-seven-hour-long talks in Sochi, Russia were focused on the situation in Syria, particularly the ongoing offensive in its northeastern region.

The agreement says the Kurdish-led militias - the prime target of the Turkish operation - must withdraw into Syrian territory beyond 30 km from the Turkish border. Erdogan's operation, meanwhile, will continue in a limited area - between the towns of Tell Abyad and Ras al-Ayn - up to 32 km inside Syrian territory.

Other parts of the Syrian border will be controlled by Syrian military and border guards, supported by Russian military police. The withdrawal is expected to be completed within 150 hours, starting Wednesday, October 23 in the afternoon. After the pullout, the area will be jointly patrolled by the Turkish military and Russian military police up to 10 km deep into Syrian territory.

Both Turkey and Russia reiterated the importance of the 1998 Adana accord, a security pact between Syria and Turkey. Among other things it allows the Turkish military to carry out cross-border operations in Syria, while Damascus promised not to harbor members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which Ankara considers a terrorist organization. While diplomatic relations between the two were significantly damaged during the years of the Syrian conflict, the pact was never denounced, and now Moscow has pledged to support its implementation in the "modern reality."

Comment: Turkey's historical grievance with Syria is that the Assads did not uphold their end of the Adana accord: throughout the 80s and 90s, Syria effectively hosted the PKK, which carried out attacks from there against govt and military facilities inside Turkey. This is why Turkey feels entitled to roll tanks into Syria and ensure what the 1998 accord could not.

The PKK has been waging a low-intensity insurgency in Turkey for decades, ultimately seeking the creation of an independent Kurdish state. Ankara has accused the Kurdish-led militias across the border in Syria of having strong ties to the PKK. Indeed, PKK flags and insignia have been repeatedly seen displayed by Kurdish forces in Syria, though the extent of the ties between the groups is not known.

On October 9, the region was invaded by the Turkish military and affiliated militants from the so-called Syrian "opposition." The operation targeted Kurdish-led militias, which Ankara considers to be "terrorists." The assault, dubbed 'Operation Peace Spring,' kicked off just two days after US President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of his country's troops from the northeast of Syria.

Comment: Erdogan gave himself the 'green light'. Trump just reacted, in his troops' and country's best interests.

Last week, the US and Turkey agreed a five-day ceasefire in the region, which expires at 10pm local time (19:00 GMT) on Tuesday. The pause in the operation was intended to allow the Kurdish-led militias to withdraw, facilitating the creation of a 20-mile "safe zone" within Syria that Turkey has sought to establish. Earlier in the day, Erdogan said he was ready to resume the operation if the US fails to keep its promises.

Moscow has repeatedly urged Turkey to show restraint in its activities in Syria, and warned it against doing anything that might hamper the political settlement process in the country.