Syrian military should use air defences against Turkish invasion – Kurds

Syria should use its air defence systems to repel any Turkish invasion, said Mazloum Abdi, the head of the Kurdish dominated and U.S. backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

"The essential thing that the Syrian army could do to defend Syrian territory would be to use air defence systems against Turkish planes," Abdi told Reuters in an interview by phone on Sunday.

He said that SDF was open to working with the Syrian military to fend off any Turkish invasion of the north.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has vowed to launch a military offensive in northern Syria to combat members of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish militant group allied with the United States and other NATO partners in the war against Islamic State (ISIS). Turkey says the YPG is indistinguishable from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is recognised as a terrorist group by the United States and European Union. The PKK has battled for Kurdish autonomous rights in Turkish soil for four decades at the cost of about 40,000 lives, most of them Kurdish.

Abdi said more military coordination with the Syrian government would not threaten their semi-autonomous rule in the country.

"Our priority is defending Syrian territory, and no one should think about taking advantage of that situation to make gains on the ground," Abdi told Reuters.

A new Turkish offensive would displace around one million people, Abdi said. This would lead to wider zones of fighting, he said.

Erdoğan said Turkey would establish safe zones 30 kilometres (20 miles) inside Syria to combat what he termed as terrorist threats. The YPG dominates the fighting force of the SDF.

A Turkish offensive could also cause a resurgence of ISIS in the region, Abdi said.

"We cannot fight on two fronts," he said.

An upcoming meeting of the Turkish and Russian foreign ministers could lead to a de-escalation of the situation, but any negotiated settlement must include a halt to Turkish drone attacks in northern Syria, Abdi told Reuters.

"This would be one of our essential demands," he said.

Last week, Russia said it hoped Turkey would refrain from launching a military operation in northern Syria, warning that such actions could lead to a dangerous deterioration of the already difficult situation in the country, AFP reported.

The United States has also warned Turkey against an offensive, saying it would threaten regional stability. Washington has allied with the SDF providing its militants with weapons, air cover, financing and other support.

Turkey has carried out three incursions into northern Syria since 2016 in operations mainly targeting the YPG/SDF.

Erdoğan’s pledge to send more troops into Syria comes as opinion polls show his job approval rating and support for his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) waning, mainly due to economic difficulties including annual inflation exceeding 70 percent. Turkey is due to hold presidential and parliamentary elections by June next year.

 

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