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Recap: Turkish Operation in NE Syria Looms, Despite Condemnation

Despite unchanging frontlines, the Turkish operation in northeast Syria could be imminent.
Recap: Turkish Operation in NE Syria Looms, Despite Condemnation

The frontlines remain unchanged in Syria. This is how the pro-regime newspaper al-Watan, resumed the current situation in the north, one week after Turkish President Recep Tayyib Erdogan threatened to unleash his wrath on the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which Ankara sees as a terrorist group. Despite this apparent freeze, the Turkish president has repeatedly vowed to launch a military operation that would uproot “terrorists” from the borders by creating a 30-km deep “safe area” to which refugees who fled Syria to Turkey could return. One year ahead of general elections in Turkey, and as the question of refugees and the involvement of Turkey in the war become a source of more and more controversy, an operation like this could be a significant victory for the Turkish president. In fact, both Ankara and the opposition Syrian national army it backs said they were ready to launch the operation anytime now.

Last week’s recap: Recap: Turkey Moves in Northeast Syria

However, the idea of a new Turkish operation in Syria was met with international skepticism. For one, the United States has called on its NATO ally to refrain from aggressive operations. The Kurdish agency North Press reported that the U.S. Department of State spokesman, Ned Price, renewed his country’s concerns about a breach of the 2019 ceasefire agreement in northeast Syria and said that any escalation by Turkey would affect the battle against the Islamic State Organization (ISIS). “I’ve previously made the point that we expect Turkey to live up to the commitments it made in October of 2019, including the commitment to halt offensive operations in northeast Syria,” Price said last Tuesday. The U.S. is the main backer of the SDF, which it sees as its primary partner in the fight against ISIS.

Similarly, Russia, which supports the Syrian regime and has cordial ties with the SDF, has condemned the idea of an operation by Turkey in the north. According to the government-affiliated al-Baath newspaper, the Syrian air force, in cooperation with its Russian counterpart, carried out joint military drills. Syrian and Russian warplanes also carried out patrols extending along the occupied Syrian Golan Heights and northern, eastern and southern parts of the Syrian Arab Republic. This comes as Russia and Syrian government forces bolstered in northern Syria, despite the visit by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to Ankara, as reported by the pan-Arab website Asharq al-Awsat.

Still according to Asharq al-Awsat, last Sunday, SDF head Mazloum Abdi said his forces were “open” to working with Syrian troops to fight off Turkey but said there was no need to send additional forces. “The essential thing that the Syrian army could do to defend Syrian territory would be using air defence systems against Turkish planes,” he added.

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