BEIRUT: Syrian Kurds on Wednesday called on Damascus ally Moscow to facilitate “dialogue” with the regime, following threats of a Turkish invasion of northeastern Syria.
The plea came after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow has contacted both the Kurdish authorities and Damascus, urging them “to begin dialogue” to ensure security on the Turkish-Syrian border.
Speaking in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, Lavrov said: “We will do our best to facilitate the start of such ... talks and expect that they will be supported by all main outside players.”
“The Kurdish administration in northeast Syria welcomes ... Lavrov’s statement on dialogue ... (with) the Syrian government and we look forward to Russia playing the role ... of a backer and guarantor,“ the statement from the Kurdish authorities said.
Damascus earlier Wednesday said it was ready to “embrace” Kurdish groups if they decide to return to the fold.
Early on in Syria’s civil war, which erupted in 2011, Kurdish forces took control of Kurdish-majority areas in the north and east of the country and set up their own autonomous institutions.
When the Islamic State group swept across the region in 2014, they mounted a fierce defence of their heartland and became the US-led coalition’s main military partner on the ground.
Ankara strongly opposed Washington’s support for Kurdish forces in Syria citing their links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which has fought a deadly insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.
It said on Tuesday that it would begin its long-threatened offensive against Kurdish forces in Syria “soon”, after US President Donald Trump gave what was widely seen as a green light at the weekend, ordering the pullback of US troops who had previously served as a buffer.
For its part, Damascus rejects Kurdish self-rule and wants central government institutions restored in Kurdish-held areas.
The Kurds want protection from the long-threatened Turkish offensive.
Weakened by Washington’s decision to withdraw most of its troops following the capture of the last vestige of IS’s “caliphate” in March, the Kurdish-led alliance has opened talks with Damascus.
But the negotiations have yet to bear fruit.
Turkey has already carried out two cross-border offensives into Syria, including one in 2018 that saw it and allied Syria rebels overrun the majority Kurdish Afrin enclave in the northwest. — AFP