Turkey ready to battle Syrian army if it backs the Kurds
The Syrian military said it was prepared to move in to the northern enclave of Afrin to support Kurdish forces who have been the target of a Turkish incursion.
Turkey launched its offensive on January 20 to clear Afrin of Syrian Kurdish militia which Ankara considers to be an offshoot of its own outlawed Kurdish rebels fighting within Turkey.
The Syrian army’s move is aimed to “support our people against the Turkish regime’s aggression”, according to a report carried by the official SANA news agency. The deployment will be of “popular” forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, Sky News Arabia reported.
A senior Syrian Kurdish official said Kurdish forces – a militia known as YPG – and the Syrian government had reached a deal for the army to enter Afrin, and that it could be implemented within two days.
Badran Jia Kurd, an adviser to the Kurdish-led autonomous administration that runs large parts of northern Syria, said Syrian troops would deploy along some border positions under the deal.
While Assad’s government and the YPG have different visions for Syria’s future and their forces have clashed at times, they have mostly avoided direct conflict.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his country is ready to battle Syrian troops if they enter Afrin.
“If the regime is entering to protect the YPG, then no one can stop us, stop Turkey or the Turkish soldiers,” he said.
At the same time, Turkish officials have increased to 786 the number of people detained so far in Turkey for criticising the country’s military offensive in northern Syria.
Authorities have been cracking down on protests and social media criticisms of its military operation into the Syrian Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin, accusing perpetrators of engaging in “terror propaganda”.
Those detained have included Kurdish politicians and doctors in Turkey who have warned against the operation’s human costs.
Associated Press, Bloomberg, Reuters