Syrian Kurds and army to repel Turkish offensive

Syrian Kurdish forces and Damascus government reached an agreement to work together to repel Turkish attack on Afrin region.

Ben Ariel,

Bashar Al-Assad
Bashar Al-Assad

Syrian Kurdish forces and the Damascus government have reached an agreement for the Syrian army to enter the Afrin region to help repel a Turkish offensive, a senior Kurdish official said on Sunday, according to Reuters.

Badran Jia Kurd, an adviser to the Kurdish-led administration in northern Syria, told the news agency Syrian army troops would deploy along some border positions and could enter the region within the next two days.

Last month, Turkish forces, backed by local Syrian Arab fighters, launched an incursion into Afrin, a border canton administered by a local Kurdish-led council and defended by the YPG militia.

The U.S. has been arming, training, and supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces in Syria, and the strongest element of that group is the YPG, a Kurdish group with ties to Kurds in Turkey, including the PKK.

The U.S. makes a distinction between the YPG and the PKK, but Turkey does not and has more than once expressed its outrage over the American support for YPG.

Sunday’s deal underscores the increasingly tangled battlefield in northern Syria, driven by a web of rivalries and alliances among Kurdish forces, the Syrian government, rebel factions, Turkey, the United States and Russia.

"We can cooperate with any side that lends us a helping hand in light of the barbaric crimes and the international silence," Jia Kurd said Sunday, according to Reuters.

There was no immediate comment from the Syrian military.

When asked about the reported deal, YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud repeated an earlier statement that said the Syrian army had yet to respond to their calls to help protect Afrin.

Jia Kurd said the agreement with Damascus on Afrin was purely military and included no wider political arrangements.

The Syrian government has allowed some Kurdish fighters, civilians and politicians to reach Afrin through its territory, representatives of both sides have told Reuters in recent weeks.

Since the star of Syria's conflict in 2011, the YPG and its allies have set up three autonomous cantons in the north, including in Afrin. Their sphere of influence expanded as they seized territory from Islamic State with U.S. help, though Washington opposes their political ambitions as does the Syrian government.

A Kurdish political official familiar with the deal on Afrin said on Sunday that it was possible Russia would object to the agreement as complicating its own diplomatic efforts with Turkey.