Turkey says discussing return of 18 Syrian troops with Russia

File photo Photograph:( AFP )

AFP Istanbul, Turkey Oct 31, 2019, 06.33 PM (IST)

Turkey is in talks with Russia about the return of 18 people understood to be Syrian regime troops, Turkish defence minister Hulusi Akar said Thursday. 

"The delivery of 18 people found to be regime members is being discussed with the Russians at the moment," Akar said in comments carried on the defence ministry's Twitter account.

He added that two of the 18 had been treated in a Turkish hospital.

The troops in question were captured by Turkey on Tuesday in the vicinity of the key border town of Ras al-Ain during reconnaissance activities.

Turkish authorities then investigated if their claims of being regime troops were accurate.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly said Turkey would never allow Syrian Kurdish fighters viewed as "terrorists" by Ankara to stay on the Syria-Turkish border wearing "regime clothes."

Over the past month, Turkey has struck deals with the United States and Russia to push back Syrian Kurdish fighters from areas along its border with Syria, with a view to setting up a "safe zone" where it plans to repatriate some of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees Turkey is currently hosting.

Ankara considers the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia in Syria a terror group linked to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), the Kurdish insurgent group outlawed in Turkey.

Joint Turkish-Russian patrols are due to start in areas near the Syrian border on Friday, after the Kremlin said Tuesday that Syrian Kurdish fighters had withdrawn in accordance with the terms of a deal between Ankara and Moscow.