Fri, 15 Nov 2019

Russia says it won't allow clashes between Turkish and Syrian forces amid Turkey's military offensive in northern Syria.

Such a confrontation would be 'simply unacceptable,' the Kremlin's special envoy for Syria, Aleksandr Lavrentyev said during a visit to the United Arab Emirates on October 15, adding: 'We will not let this happen.'

Lavrentyev also said that Turkish and Syrian officials are in contact to avoid any clash.

Meanwhile, Russia's Defense Ministry said its troops were patrolling along the front line between Syrian and Turkish forces outside the northern town of Manbij, west of the Euphrates River, to keep them separated, Russian state media reported.

Russia, a key military ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has deployed troops in the country since 2015.

Turkey launched its offensive last week with the aim of pushing the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from the border region. Turkey regards the largest militia in the SDF a terrorist organization.

Ankara says it wants to establish a 'safe zone' in the area to resettle up to 2 million Syrian refugees currently on Turkish territory.

/**/ /**/ /**/ SEE ALSO: U.S. Imposes Sanctions On Turkish Ministers Over Syria Offensive

Kurdish-led forces have announced a deal with the Syrian government for military support to help repel the Turkish assault.

Syrian forces have since taken control of an area of more than 1,000 square kilometers around Manbij, the Russian Defense Ministry was quoted as saying.

The ministry said that the Syrian Army had taken control of the Tabqa military airfield, two hydroelectric power plants, and several bridges across the Euphrates River.

Earlier, the United States imposed sanctions on Turkish ministries and senior government officials in response to the country's offensive, which came after U.S. President Donald Trump decided to withdraw forces from the area.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said Trump called for an immediate cease-fire in Syria during a phone call with Erdogan.

The SDF has been a key ally of the United States in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria.

Dozens of civilians have reportedly been killed in the Turkish operation so far, and 190,000 people have fled their homes in the area, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Six Turkish soldiers have also been killed, according to Turkey's Defense Ministry.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, the BBC, and AFP

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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