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Erdogan vows to clear terrorists from Syria border alone if Russia deal fails

By Sommer Brokaw
Erdogan vows to clear terrorists from Syria border alone if Russia deal fails
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) agreed Tuesday to create a terror-free zone in northern Syria. On Saturday, Erdogan vowed to clear terrorists alone if deal with Russia fails. Photo by Sergei Chirikov/EPA-EFE

Oct. 26 (UPI) -- Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened Saturday to clear terrorists from its border area with northeast Syria alone if Russia fails to comply with its recent agreement to help.

Turkey and Russia had agreed on Tuesday to create a terror-free zone in northern Syria.

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Under the deal, the YPG, made up of mostly ethnic Kurds who has fought ISIS, has 150 hours starting last Wednesday and expiring Tuesday to withdraw from the zone or face Turkish-Russian joint patrols. Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organization, but the United States does not.

"If the terrorists are not cleared at the end of 150 hours, we will take control and clean it ourselves," Erdogan said.

RELATED Mark Esper: U.S. forces will protect oil fields in Syria

Erdogan also accused the United States of failing to honor its commitment under the five-day ceasefire of the Turkish incursion to move Kurdish fighters 18 miles from the Syria-Turkey border.

The deal between U.S. and Turkey officials to halt the Turkish incursion against Kurds called "Operation Peace Spring" was brokered on Oct. 17 and expired Monday.

"They said 'We cleared the YPG' but they did not," Erdogan said. "They sent us a statement at the end of 120 hours that they cleaned the area but they could not."

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Erdogan also urged Europe to support the terror-free zone, and threatened to send millions of Syrian refugees to Europe if it did not back Turkey's plan to resettle them in northeast Syria.

Turkey has about 3.6 million Syrian refugees.

His comments come a day after U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said the country would reposition forces in Syria to protect oil fields from Islamic State militants.

RELATED Trump lifts Turkey sanctions after reaching Syria agreement

On Saturday, about 18 U.S. military vehicles headed from northern Iraq to Syria to do just that.

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