ISTANBUL/ DAMASCUS/ TEHRAN: Turkey pledged to assist the Syrian government in efforts to oust Kurdish militia based in the country’s northeast that Ankara regards as “terrorists”, despite a recent spike in tensions, the country’s top diplomat said.
Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, stated in an interview with TV100 that his nation is prepared to cooperate with Damascus in the war against Kurdish militants operating under the auspices of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
“We will give all kinds of political support to the work of the [Syrian] regime in this regard. It is the most natural right of the regime to clear a terrorist organization in its own territory,” the FM said of the SDF, which is present in northeast Syria, RT reported.
While Damascus has occasionally engaged in combat with Kurdish fighters, it has primarily concentrated its efforts on militant groups, some of which have ties to Al-Qaeda and Daesh (ISIL or ISIS), and has occasionally worked with the SDF and other allied Kurdish units in that fight.
The Syrian government has yet to respond to Ankara’s offer of support, but has vocally opposed any unilateral Turkish military action on its soil.
In June, Turkey announced plans for a new offensive in Syria’s Kurdish-controlled regions, saying it would create a 30-kilometer ‘safe zone’ along the Syria-Turkey border, a plan similar to previous Turkish operations in border cities such as Manbij.
In response, Syria has reportedly fortified a number of positions around its Hasakah and Raqqa provinces with aid from Russian forces, warning it would not tolerate Turkish aggression.
Ankara appears unfazed by the warnings, however, as it has already launched armed operations in Hasakah and elsewhere, including a drone strike that killed a prominent female Kurdish commander near Qamishli last week.
The attack prompted a message of condolences from Washington, which has long embedded with and supported the SDF, following a failed years-long effort to arm and train militants aiming to overthrow the government in Damascus.
However, while Turkey remains fixated on Kurdish groups, it also supports a force of paramilitary fighters in Syria which it calls the ‘Syrian National Army’, largely made up of remnants of the rebel Free Syrian Army, another formerly US-backed faction.
The Turkish FM insisted Damascus must distinguish between ‘terrorists’ and the ‘moderate opposition’, apparently referring to the Turkish-backed units operating in Syria. (Tasnim News)