© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Turkey-backed Syrian insurgent fighters stroll in a area of flowers in Jabal al-Zawiya in Idlib’s southern countryside, amid issues concerning the unfold of the coronavirus illness (COVID-19), Syria April 15, 2020. Image taken April 15, 2020. REUTER
By Suleiman Al-Khalidi and Orhan Coskun AMMAN/ANKARA (Reuters) – Russia and Syrian authorities forces have been bolstered in northern Syria the place Turkey might quickly launch an offensive in opposition to Kurdish fighters, Turkish and insurgent Syrian officers mentioned, as Ankara prepares for talks with Moscow. President Tayyip Erdogan mentioned two weeks in the past Turkey would launch new navy operations in Syria to increase 30-km (20-mile) deep “secure zones” alongside the border, aiming on the Tal Rifaat and Manbij areas and different areas additional east. Russia, which warned on the weekend in opposition to navy escalation in northern Syria, is sending International Minister Sergei Lavrov for talks in Ankara on Wednesday. The 2 nations have shut ties and Ankara has sought to mediate talks over Russia’s battle in Ukraine, however their assist for opposing sides in Syria might take a look at President Vladimir Putin’s relations with the one NATO member to not impose sanctions on Moscow over the invasion. The stakes are additionally excessive for Erdogan. With out at the least tacit approval from Russia, President Bashar al-Assad’s highly effective ally within the Syria battle, a Turkish offensive would carry further danger of casualties. Russia and Turkey have checked one another’s navy ambitions at numerous factors in Syria’s battle, at occasions bringing them near direct confrontation. There haven’t but been indicators of a big Turkish navy build-up within the border area, however studies of rocket and artillery exchanges have turn into extra frequent up to now two weeks. Any Turkish operation would assault the Kurdish YPG militia, a key a part of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that controls massive components of north Syria and is regarded by Washington as an necessary ally in opposition to Islamic State. Ankara sees it as a terrorist group and extension of the militant Kurdistan Staff Social gathering (PKK). A spokesman for the Turkey-backed Syrian Nationwide Military (SNA)mentioned Russia was reinforcing positions close to Tal Rifaat, Manbij, the southern outskirts of Kobani, and Ain Issa – all cities inside 40 km (25 miles) of the Turkish border. “For the reason that announcement of the operation, the Syrian regime and its Iranian militias have mobilised and (are) sending reinforcements to the YPG,” Main Youssef Hammoud instructed Reuters. Their intelligence had noticed Russian helicopters touchdown at an air base near Tal Rifaat, he added. Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu information company cited native sources on Saturday as saying Russia was making deployments in north Syria to “consolidate its management”, flying reconnaissance flights over Tal Rifaat and establishing Pantsir-S1 air defence programs in Qamishli, a border city practically 400 km additional east. SDF commander Mazloum Abdi instructed Reuters on Sunday Damascus ought to use its air defence programs in opposition to Turkish planes and his forces have been “open” to working with Syrian troops to battle off Turkey, however mentioned there was no have to ship extra forces. TALKS WITH LAVROV Ankara says it should act as a result of Washington and Moscow broke guarantees to push the YPG 30 km (18 miles) from the border after a 2019 Turkish offensive. With each powers searching for Turkey’s assist over Ukraine, the battle might provide it a level of leverage. Washington, whose backing for the SDF has lengthy been a supply of pressure in ties with Turkey, has voiced concern, saying any new operation would put in danger U.S. troops – which have a presence in Syria – and undermine regional stability. Russia additionally mentioned final week it hoped Turkey “refrains from actions which may result in a harmful deterioration of the already tough scenario in Syria”. A senior Turkish official mentioned Lavrov can be requested about intelligence that he mentioned pointed to Syrian authorities and Iran-backed forces both arriving at Tal Rifaat or heading there. “Turkey will do that operation a method or one other,” the official mentioned, talking on situation of anonymity. Requested whether or not Russia was strengthening positions in northern Syria, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov instructed reporters it was the Syrian armed forces that “are reinforcing, to a better or lesser extent, sure amenities on their territory.”
The Syrian authorities doesn’t touch upon troop actions, however the pro-government newspaper al-Watan on Monday cited sources in northern Raqqa – close to the Turkish border – as saying Syrian troops, tanks and heavy weaponry deployed over the weekend in response to Turkish strikes. The Turkish official and the SNA’s Hammoud mentioned assaults from SDF-controlled areas in opposition to these beneath Turkish and SNA management had elevated. Hammoud mentioned Turkish and SNA forces have been responding.