BEIRUT,— Damascus is ready to welcome Syria’s Kurds back into the fold after Washington left them to face Turkish military threats alone, a senior official said in comments published Tuesday.
Ankara has threatened an offensive in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava) against Kurdish militias and US forces on Monday pulled back from Turkish border areas, opening the way for an invasion President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said could come at any moment.
“We will defend all Syrian territory, and we will not accept any occupation of Syrian land,” Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad told the pro-government Al-Watan newspaper.
The official said Kurdish groups have been “tossed aside” by Washington, after US President Donald Trump on Monday gave Turkey a green light to press ahead with its planned military operation.
“The nation welcomes all its children and Damascus will solve all problems in Syria in a positive manner, away from violence,” Mekdad said, encouraging Syria’s Kurds to reconcile with the regime.
In the early part of the eight-year-old civil war in Syria, the Kurds have established a semi-autonomous region in northeastern Syria.
In 2013, the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party PYD — the political branch of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) — has established three autonomous Cantons of Jazeera, Kobani and Afrin and a Kurdish government across Syrian Kurdistan in 2013.
On March 17, 2016, Kurdish and Arab authorities announced the creation of a “federal region” made up of those semi-autonomous regions in Syrian Kurdistan.
When the Islamic State group swept across the region in 2014, they mounted a fierce defence of their heartland and became the US-led coalition’s main military partner on the ground.
Damascus rejects Kurdish self-rule and wants central government institutions restored in Kurd-held areas.
The Kurds want protection from the long-threatened Turkish offensive.
Ankara views Kurdish militias in Syria as a “terrorist” offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought a bloody insurgency inside Turkey for the past 35 years.
Turkey has already launched two military incursions into northern Syria in the past years and has stationed troops into the rebel-held Idlib region.
In 2016, the Turkish troops entered northern Syria in an area some 100 km east of Afrin to stop the Kurdish YPG forces from extending areas under their control and connecting Syrian Kurdistan’s Kobani and Hasaka in the east with Afrin canton in the west.
In January 2018, Turkish military forces backed pro-Ankara Syrian mercenary fighters to clear the YPG from its northwestern enclave of Afrin. In March 2018, the operation was completed with the capture of the Kurdish city of Afrin.
The flags of Turkey and Syrian rebel groups were raised in the Kurdish Afrin city and a statue of Kurdish hero Kawa, a symbol of resistance against oppressors, was torn down.
Residents of the Kurdish city and Human right groups accuse Turkey and pro-Ankara mercenary fighters of ethnic cleansing, kidnappings for ransom, armed robberies and torture.
Turkey fears the creation of a Kurdish autonomous region or Kurdish state in Syrian Kurdistan could encourage separatism amongst its own Kurds, according to analysts.
The United States views the YPG as a close ally in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group.
The Kurdish PYD and its powerful military wing YPG/YPJ, considered the most effective fighting force against IS in Syria and U.S.
has provided them with arms. The YPG, which is the backbone of the SDF forces, has seized swathes of Syria from Islamic State.
The Kurdish forces expelled the Islamic State from its last patch of territory in the eastern Syrian village of Baghouz in March 2019.
But in December 2018 U.S.
President Donald Trump abruptly announced the pullout from Syria.
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