| 19 April 2024, Friday |

Türkiye denies US request to cancel Syria land operation, Russia negotiates SDF withdrawal

Türkiye confirmed on Friday that it had asked the US to “fulfill its obligations,” according to the understandings related to northern Syria after Washington asked Ankara to refrain from carrying out the military operation.

The Turkish National Security Council discussed Thursday the latest regional and international developments, combating terrorism, military operations in northern Syria and Iraq, and the possible ground operation against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) north of Syria.

The Turkish army prepared for its operation with the Syrian National Army following the “Claw-Sword” air operation, launched by Turkish forces in northern Syria and Iraq on Nov. 19, in response to the terrorist bombing in Istiklal Street in Taksim district in Istanbul, which killed six and injured 81 others.

Before the meeting, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar acknowledged that the US asked Türkiye to “re-evaluate” the possible new incursion into northern Syria, indicating that Ankara asked them to keep their promises in response.

Akar said the counter-terrorism operations are being carried out in line with the right of self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter to ensure the security of the Turkish nation and its borders.

He added that the Kurdish People’s Defense Units, the largest component of the SDF, increased its provocations and attacks aiming to destabilize peace and stability in northern Syria.

On Wednesday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told his Turkish counterpart of his “strong opposition” to a new Turkish military operation in Syria and voiced concern over the escalating situation in the county, the Pentagon said.

“He also expressed concern over escalating action in northern Syria and Türkiye, including recent airstrikes, some of which directly threatened the safety of US personnel working with local partners in Syria to defeat ISIS,” it said in a statement.

“Secretary Austin called for de-escalation and shared the Department’s strong opposition to a new Turkish military operation in Syria,” read the statement.

The Turkish Defense Ministry said that Akar discussed bilateral and regional defense and security issues with Austin and informed him that Türkiye is carrying out counter-terrorism operations to ensure the security of its nation and borders.

He stressed that cooperation and solidarity in combating terrorism would contribute to regional and global peace and security and that Türkiye is ready to cooperate in fighting ISIS and all other terrorist organizations.

“We are reminding them that they should keep terrorists away from themselves, and eventually, they should cut their ties with terrorist organizations,” he said.

Akar also met the former US special envoy to Syria, James Jeffrey, in Ankara, and they discussed developments in Syria.

Ankara accused Washington of “failing to fulfill its obligations” under the signed understandings and Russia of not fulfilling its obligations under the Sochi understanding, but Moscow said Ankara did not fulfill its commitments.

Russia and “SDF”

A cautious calm prevailed throughout north and east Syria with the negotiations in the western countryside of Raqqa between the Russian forces and the SDF regarding Manbij and Ain al-Arab areas, which are considered, along with Tal Rifaat, as potential targets for the upcoming Turkish military operation.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), Russia demanded SDF withdraws from the center of the city, with the increase in the deployment of the Internal Security Forces (Asayish) in the centers and maintaining the presence of the regime forces in the vicinity of the two areas with the Russian troops.

Russia waited for nearly two hours until the Turkish forces arrived. However, the Russian vehicles returned to the al-Qamishli airbase after Turkish soldiers informed Russian officials that they would run the patrol.

The last joint patrol between the two sides was on Nov. 17, two days before Türkiye launched Operation Claw-Sword.

Reinforcements continue

Military reinforcements from various parties continued to flow into the SDF-controlled areas. The Russian forces sent military support to the Aleppo governorate and placed a new barrier at the line of contact separating the regions controlled by the SDF and those under the control of Türkiye and the Syrian factions loyal to it.

The Observatory reported that the Russian forces increased their presence in Menagh military airport, under government control, aiming to stop or delay the possible Turkish operation.

A security official in Ain al-Arab told Agence French Press (AFP) that the Russian forces conducted a patrol in the area, accompanied by a helicopter, after canceling the joint patrols with the Turkish troops and the patrol operation scheduled earlier.

Last week, the SDF called on Russia and the United States to intervene to prevent Türkiye from carrying out its threats to launch a new ground offensive against its areas of control.

The regime forces deployed military reinforcements to Ain Issa in the northern countryside of Raqqa against the Turkish escalation. They brought new reinforcements consisting of at least 20 tanks, personnel carriers, cannons, logistical materials, and weaponry and entered Ain al-Arab.

The Observatory reported that successive convoys of the US-led International Coalition against ISIS entered northern and eastern Syria from the al-Walid border crossing with the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

It announced that over 240 trucks carrying cannons, heavy machine guns, military equipment, ammunition, closed boxes, and fuel tanks were headed to the coalition’s bases in al-Hasakah.

On Nov. 29, a coalition convoy arrived in northern and eastern Syria, including about 40 trucks carrying ammunition and logistical materials, tanks, protection forces, and armored vehicles. It entered the US base in Tal Baydar, the third convoy in less than ten days.

  • Asharq Al-Awsat