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Syria’s Northeast Is On Brink Of New Round Of Escalation

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Syria's Northeast Is On Brink Of New Round Of Escalation

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On November 26, Turkey’s National Security Council said that the country will press ahead with its anti-terror operation in northern Syria until its goals are reached.

Operation Peace Spring, launched in October “contributes to peace and stability in the region” and “will continue until it reaches its goals, while taking all precautions to prevent harm to civilians”. the council, chaired by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said in a statement.

The statement also said that Ankara expects the US and Russia to fulfill their agreements with Ankara as soon as possible to clear ‘terrorists’ (i.e. Kurdish armed  groups) from areas of northern Syria, including Tal Rifat and Manbij.

“We call on the international community to support Turkey, which aims for the safe and voluntary return of Syrians to their country without any discrimination based on ethnicity or religion,” the statement reads.

By this statement, Turkey once again accused Russia and the US of not fulfilling their commitments in the framework of the safe zone agreement. The previous accusation of this kind against Russia was made by Turkey’s Foreign Minister, but then rectracted by the Turkish side as a kind of missunderstanding. The new accusations demonstrate that Ankara is once again ready for a more agressive push of its own agenda in the region. The Turkish side seeks to continue its military operation in Syria’s northeast and clear it from the Kurds, most of whom it describes as terrorists or terrorist sympathizers.

Another interesting point is that Ankara’s declarations that it’s planning to resettle around 2m of refugees in the cleared region. The interesting fact is that most of these refugees are military aged men that fled the war. A majoirty of these ‘refugees’ does have anti-Assad views. A notable part of them supports various radical groups like ISIS and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (linked to al-Qaeda) or even former members of this or other similar groups.

Therefore, if Turkey achieves a success in its plan to resettle these refugees in northeastern Syria, it will be able to create another strongpoint of its influence in the country.

On his return flight from a visit to Doha, Erdogan already told journalists that he presented his refugee resettling plans to Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, adding that “Mr Tamim liked our projects”.

On the same day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the Syrian Kurds lost enthusiasm for efforts to resolve the situation in northeastern Syria in accordance with a Russian-Turkish memorandum as soon as US troops returned to the country’s north.

“I would advise Kurdish political leaders to stick to their word. Right after the memorandum had been signed [in Sochi] on October 22, we obtained Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s consent to implement it, and Kurdish leaders vigorously assured us that they would cooperate. However, in just a few days the United States changed its position and said that when withdrawing troops from Syria, they [the Americans] had forgotten about the need to protect oil fields to make sure that the Syrian government did not take control of them, and the Kurdish leadership immediately lost enthusiasm for cooperation in accordance with the Sochi agreement and once again opted to rely on the United States’ support,” the Russian top diplomat pointed out.

Lavrov said that the Kurds need to understand that efforts to ensure their rights require maintaining Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“To achieve this goal, they should build meaningful dialogue with the Syrian government. Once the Americans announced their withdrawal from Syria, they expressed readiness for dialogue but later they returned to a rather unconstructive position,” Lavrov noted. “So I would advise our Kurdish colleagues to be consistent and refrain from taking questionable actions as the situation changes.”

The remarks by the Russian foreign minister demonstrate that the Kurdish leadership’s perverted understanding of their commitments under the deal with the Damascus government and Russia has once again put them on the brink of a new Turkish military operation.

The pro-US Kurdish faction undermines the dialogue with Damascus and sabotages the implementation of the safe zone deal. At the same time, they exploit the protection provided by the Syrian Army and the Russians to provide own policies, often hostile towards Moscow and Damascus, in the region. If the Kurdish leaders continue to act this way, they may find themselves in the situation when there is no more Russian protection and the Turkish military operation is resumed.

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