Middle East

SDF ‘open’ to joining forces with Assad regime to repel Turkey military operation

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has revealed that it is “open” to working and coordinating with Syrian regime forces in order to repel an incoming Turkish military operation in north-east Syria.

Speaking to the news agency, Reuters, yesterday, the SDF’s commander-in-chief, Mazloum Abdi, said that military coordination with the Bashar Al-Assad’s regime would not impact the group’s semi-autonomous rule in north-east Syria, addressing long-standing fears that seeking help from regime forces would grant Damascus control over those territories.

The prospect of coordination between the SDF and Syrian regime forces comes after Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, announced last month plans to launch a new military operation into the areas controlled by the Kurdish militias. The operation, which would be Turkey’s fourth in the region, is an effort to clear the 30-kilometre-deep ‘safe zone’ in northern Syria from remaining militant elements, in order to settle at least a million Syrian refugees there.

Abdi insisted that in the effort to repel a Turkish operation, “Our priority is defending Syrian territory, and no one should think about taking advantage of that situation to make gains on the ground”. Outlining his view of how the Syrian military could help in that effort, he said that “The essential thing that the Syrian army could do to defend Syrian territory would be use air defence systems against Turkish planes”.

READ: Turkey planned Syria military operation after Russia withdrawal, sources reveal

A new Turkish incursion, Abdi claimed, would displace around one million people and would result in “wider” zones of fighting throughout the region. Whether such zones would spread into Turkish territory itself, however, Abdi did not say.

If the SDF does ever intentionally conduct attacks within Turkey, it would seem to give credence to the Turkish government’s long-held accusation of the group being an offshoot of the Kurdistan Worker’ Party (PKK), a designated terrorist organisation which has operated against Turkish authorities and civilians for over three decades.

The SDF leader also warned of the potential resurgence of Daesh in the region if Turkey launches its operation, as it would apparently halt or obstruct efforts to combat the group – in coordination with US forces which back the Kurdish militias – and would also draw manpower away from guarding the prisons throughout north-east Syria which hold captured Daesh fighters, as well as the detention camps which hold their families.

If Daesh does take advantage of that gap in security caused by guards being redeployed to fight the Turkish incursion, then “We cannot fight on two fronts”.

Abdi expressed his hope that an upcoming meeting between the Turkish and Russian foreign ministers could de-escalate the situation and lead to a negotiated agreement. He insisted, however, that any agreement must include a halt to Turkish drone strikes against the Kurdish militias in northern Syria, saying it “would be one of our essential demands”.

READ: Syria regime sends reinforcements ahead of Turkish army operation

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