Russia supportive of Syrian opposition to Turkish-controlled security zone

Kurds also against proposed development along the Syrian-Turkish border

Turkish-backed Syrian fighters  using an armoured vehicle provided by the Turkish army, near the town of Tal Hajar in Aleppo’s province, a few kilometres from areas controlled by a Kurdish-led coalition. Phoograph: Bakr Alkasem/AFP/ Getty Images

Turkish-backed Syrian fighters using an armoured vehicle provided by the Turkish army, near the town of Tal Hajar in Aleppo’s province, a few kilometres from areas controlled by a Kurdish-led coalition. Phoograph: Bakr Alkasem/AFP/ Getty Images

 

Russia has expressed support for the rejection by Syria’s government and the Kurds of a proposed Turkish-controlled security zone along the Syrian-Turkish border.

The security zone proposal was put forward by the US and Turkey, but Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said it would not work.

“We are convinced that the best and only solution [for northern Syria] is the transfer of these territories to the control of the Syrian government and of Syrian security forces and administrative structures.”

The Syrian foreign ministry contended such a plan is a “clear aggression and an occupation of [Syrian] territories” in violation of the UN charter and international law and vowed to defend Syrian sovereignty.

Since 2016, the Turkish military has occupied two strategic enclaves in northern Syria and installed surrogate paramilitaries and administrators and loyalist refugees.

Senior Syrian Kurdish official Aldar Khalil said they would accept the deployment of UN forces on the Syrian side of the border to separate Kurdish fighters and Turkish troops massed on the Turkish side.

“Other [external] choices are unacceptable as they [would] infringe on the sovereignty of Syria and the sovereignty of our autonomous region.”

Russia and the Kurds were responding to a statement by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Ankara would create a “security zone”, an idea put forward by US president Donald Trump.

Trump has, in the past week, veered from threatening Turkey with economic devastation if the Turkish military attacked US-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) or “harmed” Kurds, to proposing to handover to Turkey a 30km-wide buffer zone once US troops withdraw from northern Syria.

While the US and its western allies have provided air cover, the YPG has deployed the sole effective ground forces in the battle against Islamic State (Isis) in north and eastern Syria.

Although Isis fighters have been driven from cities and towns in Syria and Iraq, the jihadis have taken refuge in the desert along the Syrian-Iraqi border and continue to mount guerrilla operations, such as Wednesday’s suicide bombing that killed 16, including four US soldiers, in the town of Manbij in northern Syria.

Stumbling block

The YPG regards Ankara as a long-standing enemy of the Kurds due to its refusal to recognise their separate identity and grant them political rights within Turkey.

Turkey treats the YPG as a terrorist organisation, arguing it is an offshoot of the Kurdish Turkish Workers’ Party which has battled Ankara for self-determination or autonomy for three decades.

Syrian Kurds began meeting Syrian government officials last year to draw up a roadmap for the transfer to Damascus of the 25 per cent of Syria held by the YPG.

Fearing US abandonment once its 2,200 troops have left Syria, the Kurds have have also appealed to Cairo to mediate. The stumbling block is the Kurds’ insistence on autonomy for the area they hold and the adoption of a new constitution guaranteeing Kurdish rights.

Damascus has offered only semi-autonomous administration, since acceptance of the Kurds’ demands could provoke intervention by Turkey, which refuses to grant its own Kurds self-rule.

As Egypt strongly supports Syrian unity, Cairo is likely to join Russia in supporting Damascus position. Erdogan is due to meet Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow on January 23rd.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.