MOSCOW (Dispatches) – Russia has deployed helicopters to assist and protect its military police patrolling along Syria's border with Turkey.
Flights would be conducted on a daily basis in an altitude of 50-60 meters along several patrol routes, Russia's Interfax news agency reported the deployment on Friday, citing a military pilot.
Turkish and Russian troops have been engaged in joint patrols in northeastern Syria in a bid to verify the withdrawal of Kurdish militants from an area bordering Turkey.
Last month, an agreement was reached between Moscow and Ankara in Sochi on the parameters of a "safe zone,” an area void of Kurdish forces which Ankara regards as terrorists, to be drawn 30 kilometers deep into Syria from the Turkish border.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) was consequently given 150 hours to pull out troops from the region. The Kurds announced their complete withdrawal from the border area on Sunday.
Al-Masdar news agency cited a Syrian military source as saying that several tank battalions had been deployed in Hasakah's Tal Tam district and the town of Ayn Issa north of Raqqa, reinforcing Syrian troops in areas where Turkish forces had previously sought to reach.
The news agency described the deployments as a probable prelude to future clashes between Ankara and Damascus.
Last month, U.S. President Donald Trump backtracked on earlier orders to withdraw all troops from northeastern Syria, saying that the soldiers would remain there to "secure" the oilfields.
Trump has even said that U.S. appropriation of the oil fields could be a fair "reimbursement” for Washington's military deployment in the region.
Last week, the Pentagon further raised international concern when it threatened to use "military force” against any party, including the Syrian government and its allies, seeking to gain control of Syrian oilfields.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the United States is not fulfilling its pledge to remove Kurdish militants from a Syrian border region and that he would raise the issue when he meets U.S. President Donald Trump next week.
Ankara views the U.S.-backed YPG as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group, which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since 1984.
Erdogan is scheduled to discuss implementation of the agreement with Trump in Washington on November 13. The meeting would go ahead following a phone call between the two leaders.
"While we hold these talks, those who promised us that the YPG...would withdraw from here within 120 hours have not achieved this," he said while speaking at a news conference on Thursday.
File photo of Syrian forces reorganizing before moving towards Hayyan oil field, east of the central Syrian Homs province on February 7, 2017.