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Syria regime, Kurds agree truce in Hasakeh

AFP , Tuesday 23 Aug 2016
Hasakeh
Members of the Kurdish police known as the Asayesh control a motorcycle driver in the neighbourhood of Al-Masaken in the northeastern Syrian city of Hasakeh during ongoing fighting with regime forces on August 22, 2016 (Photo: AFP)
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Regime forces and Kurdish fighters agreed on Tuesday to a truce in the northeastern Syrian city of Hasakeh after a week of clashes, a Kurdish official and Syrian state media said.

The agreement included "a ceasefire and the withdrawal of all armed forces from the city," according to a statement distributed to journalists by a Kurdish official.

It said the Kurds and regime would also exchange any detainees or wounded, and reopen roads blocked off during fighting.

The official told AFP that the powerful Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and Syrian forces would withdraw from Hasakeh, while the police forces of both the Kurds and the government would remain.

He added that the deal was brokered "under the auspices of Russian military officials."

Syrian state television confirmed the truce agreement.

A journalist working for AFP in Hasakeh said the city was quiet on Tuesday afternoon, with several stores reopening in the centre.

Kurdish, regime, and Russian officials met on Monday in the coastal Hmeimim air base to thrash out an agreement to put an end to the violence in Hasakeh.

Steadfast regime ally Russia has strengthened its relationship with Syria's Kurds, and a Kurdish representative office recently opened in Moscow.

Clashes erupted on Wednesday between the Kurdish police force known as the Asayesh and the pro-government National Defence Forces militia (NDF).

Fighting escalated the next day when regime warplanes bombarded Kurdish-held positions in the city for the first time.

That prompted the US-led coalition to scramble aircraft, with Washington warning the Syrian government against strikes that might endanger its military advisers with the Kurds on the ground.

Hasakeh, capital of the northeastern province of the same name, was already mostly controlled by Kurdish forces although the majority of its residents are Arabs.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Monday that Kurdish fighters controlled 90 percent of the city after seizing the central prison.

"It (the truce) is a defeat for the regime and a victory for the Kurds because technically now they control the province of Hasakeh with a symbolic regime presence," Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.

Washington-based analyst Mutlu Civiroglu agreed that the deal appeared favourable to the Kurds.

"As of now, the agreement shows that the Kurds got what they wanted with minimal casualties," Civiroglu said.

Syria's Kurds have run autonomous institutions across swathes of the country's north -- with independent schools and police forces -- since government forces withdrew from the area in 2012.

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