Despite Ankara assuring the Syrian government that its operation in Afrin aims to protect exclusively the Turkish security, Damascus has firmly condemned the military campaign as an assault on the country’s sovereignty.
The co-chairman of Afrin Canton, which was unilaterally proclaimed by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in northern Syria, Hevi Mustafa, in an interview with Sputnik Turkey denied the media reports concerning negotiations on the transfer of the district to Syrian government troops.
“All this information about the negotiations on the surrender of Afrin to the Syrian authorities is untrue. Attacks on Afrin occur because we do not intend to transfer this territory to the Syrian regime. ”
According to Mustafa, representatives of the PYD appealed to the Syrian army to take part in the protection of Afrin from the Turkish armed forces that have been conducting an operation there since January 20.
“We called on the Syrian government forces to protect Afrin. We have been fighting for the unity of Syria for 6 years already. The Syrian authorities claimed that they would repulse the attack of Turkey, if it happens. Therefore, when the Turkish attacks began, we called on the leadership of Syria to speak out in defense of Afrin, which is part of the Syrian state. Why do the Syrian authorities keep silent about Afrin? We are conducting diplomatic negotiations in order to put an end to the attacks on Afrin, but they have not yielded results so far,” she said.
Since January 20, Turkey has been conducting a military operation in Syria’s Afrin, an area is controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces-affiliated and US-backed YPG militias, which Ankara considers to be linked with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging an armed conflict in Turkey seeking autonomy and equal rights for the Kurds in the country.
Damascus has firmly condemned the operation as an assault on Syria’s sovereignty. Moscow, in turn, has urged all the parties to exercise restraint and called for respect for Syria’s territorial integrity.
However, the Turkish authorities have emphasized that its military campaign is aimed exclusively at securing the country’s borders amid the terrorist threat. According to Ankara, Turkish army and its allied Free Syrian Army rebels won’t fight Damascus during the campaign, which in being conducted in respect of the Syrian territorial integrity.
The Turkish military campaign in Afrin and nearby regions was launched after the US had announced its plans to train a 30,000-strong border force in northern Syria mostly from YPG fighters, which are considered as terrorists by Ankara. Washington’s move was harshly criticized by Turkey, with President Erdogan threatening to “strangle” the forming “terrorist army.” Within a week after the announcement, Ankara launched an offensive in Syria’s Kurdish enclave of Afrin code-named Olive Branch and aimed at eliminating terrorists in the region.