Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned Syrian Kurds to adhere to an agreement between Russia and Turkey for northern Syria, saying they were losing interest after the U.S. army returned to the area.
“I would advise Kurdish political leaders to stick to their word,” Lavrov told reporters in Moscow on Tuesday, according to Russian state-run news agency TASS.
Turkey signed an agreement with Russia late last month requiring the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), dominated by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), to pull back from the Syrian-Turkish border. The SDF has provided the main fighting force for a U.S.-led battle to destroy Islamic State (ISIS) in the country, but a Turkish military incursion into the region in early October undercut those efforts.
Lavrov said “Kurdish leaders vigorously assured us that they would cooperate” after the deal was signed on Oct. 22. Once U.S. troops returned “the Kurdish leadership immediately lost enthusiasm for cooperation… and once again opted to rely on the United States’ support.”
General Kenneth McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, told reporters on Saturday that there will be an increase in operations against ISIS, adding that there was no foreseeable end date for a U.S. military withdrawal from Syria. The United States has resumed large-scale military operations in the north, the New York Times reported on Monday.
The Kurds should help maintain Syria’s sovereignty and build meaningful dialogue with Damascus in order to ensure their rights, Lavrov said.
“So I would advise our Kurdish colleagues to be consistent and refrain from taking questionable actions as the situation changes,” he said.
Turkey says the YPG are terrorists and an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a militant group in Turkey that has fought a four-decade war for autonomy at the cost of about 40,000 lives, most of them Kurdish. The United States and the European Union designate the PKK as a terrorist group.