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
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.
“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.”
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.
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.