Russia has reportedly asked the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to withdraw from large parts from Syria’s northeastern region to prevent a new ground invasion by Turkey.
Senior officers of the Russian military grouping in Syria made the request during a meeting with commanders from the SDF at al-Qamishli Airport in the northern countryside of al-Hasakah on November 25. The meeting was also attended by a number of Syrian officers.
According to the Istanbul-based Syria TV and other news sources, the Russian officers warned the SDF that Turkey is seriously considering launching a new ground operation in northeastern Syria.
The officers went on to inform the Kurdish commanders that the only way to protect the region from a new invasion will be for the SDF to withdraw 30 kilometers from the border line with Turkey, all the way back to the strategic M4 highway. The officers affirmed that the 5th Corps of the Syrian Arab Army is ready to take control over the border.
The request came amid an escalation by Turkey, whose military launched an operation against Kurdish forces in Syria and Iraq, codenamed Claw-Sword, on November 20 in response to the November 13 Istanbul bombing.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has already warned that the operation could morph into a full-on ground offensive against the SDF.
Despite Turkey’s threats, the SDF refused the Russian request to withdraw. SDF commanders said that they are well-prepared for any new invasion, and went on to call on Russia to mount more pressure on Ankara.
The United States is already making its own efforts to prevent a new Turkish invasion into northeastern Syria. Washington’s Special Envoy to Syria Nicholas Granger have reportedly asked the SDF to make concessions that would adress Turkey’s security concerns. However, the group is yet to accept. One of the concessions is reportedly be a withdrawal from the border line.
The SDF strict stand and its unwillingness to make any concession whatsoever could strengthen Turkey’s case in front of Russia and the U.S., who have been so far opposing any new ground operation in northeastern Syria.