Istanbul, (AFP) – Turkey on Thursday freed 18 Syrian regime soldiers that its forces captured in northeastern syria, the Turkish Defence Ministry said.
The release followed talks with Russia about the return of the troops.
“18 Regime elements seized… on October 29 were handed over as a result of the coordination with the authorities of the Russian Federation,” the ministry said on Twitter.
Earlier Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said 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due to start in areas near the Syrian border on Friday, after the Kremlin said Tuesday that Syrian Kurdish fighters had withdrawn in accordance with the terms of a deal between Ankara and Moscow.