Syrians fleeing the war in Azaz region walk at the Bab al-Salam Turkish-Syrian border gate, Syria on 5 February 2016, with flags of Turkey and the western-backed Free Syrian Army flying above. (Photo credit: IHH/AP)
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has offered the Syrian government ‘political support’ if it helps join the Turkish goal of expelling the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the People’s Protection Units (YPG) from northern Syria.
The top Turkish diplomat said it is the natural right of Damascus to expel the YPG – which is part of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – and the PKK from its territory.
Cavusoglu’s remarks were made during a live televised interview in which he stated that previously announced plans for a Turkish invasion of northern Syria could commence at any moment.
The Turkish foreign minister lamented that an agreement between the US, Russia, and Turkey signed in 2019 to create a ‘safe zone’ between the Turkish border and outposts of Kurdish militant groups has not been fully implemented, due to the fact that Moscow seeks to integrate the SDF into the Syrian armed forces.
Cavusoglu noted that the offer to coordinate with Damascus was an issue brought up with his Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian. Tehran seeks to resolve Ankara’s concerns over militants on the Syrian-Turkish border through diplomatic means instead of a military invasion.
A spokesman for the SDF revealed that the government of President Bashar al-Assad agreed to provide the militia with heavy weapons to confront Turkish aggressions in the countryside of Raqqah and Aleppo.
SDF spokesman Aram Hanna specified that the agreement “falls purely within the military framework [and focuses on] preserving the integrity of Syrian land and addresses a possible aggression by the Turkish occupation army and its mercenaries.”
Promising to protect the territorial sovereignty of Syria and expel all foreign forces operating in Syria without an invitation from the government, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said: “Syria will resist any Turkish invasion of its lands at official and popular levels.”
Turkey began a new military campaign in Syria on 25 May, launching an offensive on several villages in the northwestern countryside of Hasakah governorate and the city of Afrin, targeting Kurdish militias, including the PKK, the YPG, and the SDF.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the operation will resume efforts to establish a 30-kilometer long ‘safe zone’ along Turkey’s southern borders.
Two days after the presidents of Turkey, Russia, and Iran met to discuss a political end to the Syrian war, the Turkish foreign minister said that Ankara “does not need anyone’s permission” to launch attacks on Syria.
The general command of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) said that the country is prepared to respond to any possible Turkish offensive in northern Syria.
“In the wake of an upsurge in attacks by Turkish military forces on Syrian territories over the past two days and shelling on different neighborhoods and a number of [Syrian] army positions, we reiterate that our valiant army is ready to confront any possible aggression by the Turkish regime and its allied militants,” an unnamed Syrian military source told SANA in a statement on 26 July.