Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that his country was holding meetings with Russian officials to hand over 18 members of Assad’s forces captured in the Hassakeh countryside in eastern Syria.
The Turkish Defense Ministry said in a statement on their official website on Thursday, quoting Akar, “We have presented to President Erdogan the developments related to the handing over of the Syrian regime soldiers, and have received his instructions in this matter.” He added that he was holding meetings with the Russians to hand over 18 people, who it had become clear after investigations were members of the regime’s forces.
On Wednesday, the Turkish Defense Ministry had announced that it had arrested 18 soldiers it said were affiliated with Assad’s army, southeast of the town of Ras al-Ayn in Syria, during reconnaissance operations carried out by Turkish forces and the Syrian National Army in the area.
The Syrian Ras al-Ayn area saw clashes for the first time on Wednesday between Turkish forces and the National Army on one side and Assad’s forces on the other, according to Faylaq al-Sham’s Al-Mohrar Media Network, with 18 members from Assad’s forces taken prisoner.
Assad’s forces are continuing to deploy along Syria’s northern border with Turkey, in accordance with the Sochi agreement reached between Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The National Army said that it was continuing to secure the cities of Ras al-Ayn and Tel Abyad, which it took control over as part of Operation Peace Spring, begun by the Turkish army on Oct. 9, 2019, against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and which ended with the two deals with Russia and the United States.
The deal reached between Erdogan and Putin on Oct. 22, 2019, calls for the withdrawal of the SDF from the Syrian-Turkish border at a depth of 30 kilometers into Syrian territory, in particular from the cities of Manbij and Tel Rifaat.
This coincided with a visit by Akar to the Syrian-Turkish border accompanied by the Chief of Staff Yasar Guler, and infantry commander Umit Dundar. Akar called on Turkish forces in Tel Abyad to remain fully prepared, in a speech he delivered.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.