Turkey Releases 18 Syrian Soldiers After Russia Talks

Turkish officials say they had to make sure soldiers weren't Kurds

According to Turkey’s Defense Ministry, the 18 Syrian soldiers captured earlier this week were released along the Syrian border, following talks with and reassurances from the Russian government. Two of the soldiers were wounded and had been treated in a Turkish hospital.

The 18 were captured in the border town of Ras al-Ayn. Six other soldiers were killed in Turkish attacks near the area. The Defense Ministry suggested there was concern that the soldiers might’ve been Kurds..

Turkey’s President Erdogan says that Russia’s President Putin reassured him that they were real soldiers, and that Kurds would not be allowed in the border area “wearing regime clothes,” which is why Turkey decided to release them.

The Syrian Kurds have withdrawn their fighters from the 30 km safe zone along the border, though the Syrian government still retains some towns within the Turkish-claimed area. How this will be handled is unclear, though with Turkey and Russia conducting joint patrols, they probably won’t be attacking Syrian territory as much as when it was just Turkish troops and rebels working together.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.