Syrian Kurds: Russia-Brokered Deal With Assad Meant To Protect Border
By RFE/RL October 14, 2019
Syrian Kurdish leaders say a Moscow-brokered deal with President Bashar al-Assad's government centers for now on Syrian troops deploying along the border and the two sides will discuss politics later.
The "emergency measure" with oversight from Assad's key ally, Russia, was meant to block a Turkish offensive in northeastern Syria, top Kurdish politician Aldar Xelil said on October 14, a day after the United States announced it would withdraw its 1,000 troops from northeast Syria in the face of the expanding Turkish offensive.
Turkey launched the operation in the region a week ago after U.S. President Donald Trump decided to withdraw forces from two outposts in northern Syria, where U.S. troops have been stationed for years.
Turkey has said its incursion into northeast Syria is targeting the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara regards as "terrorists."
Syrian Army soldiers are now poised to enter border territory from the town of Manbij to Derik, under the deal with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which the YPG militia spearheads and which controls the northeast.
"After the Americans abandoned the region, and gave the green light for the Turkish attack, we were forced to explore another option, which is talks with Damascus and Moscow to find a way out and thwart these Turkish attacks," senior Kurdish official Badran Jia Kurd said.
"This is a preliminary military agreement. The political aspects were not discussed, and these will be discussed at later stages."
Syrian state media said its military entered the town of Tel Tamer in the northeast on October 14, some 35 kilometers from a focal point of the Turkish offensive.
"The priority now is protecting the border's security from the Turkish danger," Xelil said. "We are in contact with the Damascus government to reach common [ground] in the future."
The United Nations has said that more than 130,000 people have fled their homes because of the Turkish offensive.
The Turkish offensive was officially condemned by the European Union on October 14.
"The EU condemns Turkey's military action, which seriously undermines the stability and the security of the whole region," the 28-member bloc said in a joint statement at a meeting of foreign ministers in Luxembourg.
However, the EU stopped short of imposing an arms embargo. So far, France and Germany have banned arms sales to Ankara.
Speaking during a speech in Baku on October 14, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed the EU and Arab League for their criticism of Turkey's operation, and said Ankara would not back down from its offensive "no matter what anyone says."
"We are determined to continue the operation until the end, without paying attention to threats. We will absolutely finish the job we started. Our battle will continue until ultimate victory is achieved," Erdogan said.
Meanwhile, Trump suggested that Kurdish forces might have released Islamic State (IS) prisoners on purpose to draw the United States into the conflict. https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1183702529403695104
He also tweeted that "big sanctions on Turkey are coming," adding: "Do people really think we should go to war with NATO member Turkey? Never ending wars will end!"
Trump and other U.S. officials have threatened strong action, including sanctions that could wreak havoc on the Turkish economy, if Turkey overstepped in Syria.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and dpa
Copyright (c) 2019. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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