The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces would coordinate with Syrian government troops to fend off any Turkish invasion of the north, the SDF commander told Reuters on Sunday, saying Damascus should use its air defence systems against Turkish planes.
Ankara has vowed a new offensive on swathes of northern Syria controlled by the SDF, a Kurdish-led alliance that is spearheaded by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
The new threats have highlighted the complex web of ties in northern Syria: while Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organization, Syrian Kurdish forces are backed by Washington and have also coordinated with Syria’s government and its ally Russia.
SDF head Mazloum Abdi said on Sunday that his forces were “open” to working with Syrian troops to fight off Turkey but said there was no need to send additional forces.
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“The essential thing that the Syrian army could do to defend Syrian territory would be using air defence systems against Turkish planes,” he said in an interview by telephone from an undisclosed location in northern Syria.
Syria sees Turkey as an occupying force in its north and the foreign ministry in Damascus said last month it would consider any new Turkish incursions as “war crimes and crimes against humanity”.
“Our priority is defending Syrian territory, and no one should think about taking advantage of that situation to make gains on the ground,” said Abdi.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to capture the SDF-held towns of Tal Rifaat and Manbij in Syria’s northern Aleppo province, most of which is otherwise held by Syrian government troops.
Turkish-backed incursions in previous years have ousted the SDF from the northwestern enclave of Afrin and a series of border towns further east.
Abdi said a new offensive would displace around one million people and lead to “wider” zones of fighting, but would not say whether the SDF would respond with attacks in Turkish territory itself.
He warned it could also lead to a resurgence of ISIS.
This article was edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.