Erdogan: Turkey has an agreement with Russia concerning Kurdish-held Canton of Afrin

Turkey does not intend to desist from carrying out operation “Olive Branch” in the Syrian region of Afrin, said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as reported by the local newspaper Yeni Safak. According to Erdogan, Turkey also has a certain agreement with Russia in this regard.

“Turkey does not intend to back down from the operation in Afrin, and has an agreement with Russia,” Erdogan said during a speech in Ankara.

However, he emphasized that Turkey does lay claim to Afrin territory.

“I will say that our nation does not lay claim to the territory of other countries. Turkey’s goal is to ensure the national security and territorial integrity of Syria,” Erdogan remarked.

The day before, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that Ankara had passed on information on military operation “Olive Branch” to Damascus through Moscow.

The military operation in the Afrin region began on January 20. The Turkish army crossed the Syrian border and began an offensive on the Kurds’ positions, acting in conjunction with pro-Turkish militants in the region. Ankara believes that the Kurdish regiments in northern Syria are related to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is prohibited in Turkey, and poses a threat to Turkey’s southern regions.

Russian Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said earlier that Moscow is watching developments in Syria closely. According to him, Moscow’s representatives are “in contact both with the Syrian leadership and with the Turkish leadership”.

The day before the start of Turkey’s military operation, the Russian Defense Ministry withdrew an operative group of soldiers and military police from the region. This was done to “preempt possible provocations, and remove threats to the life and health of Russian soldiers,” the department specified.

Sikhanok Dibo, advisor to the leadership of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), told RBC news agency that Russia had suggested to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) (the military wing of the PYD) that it hand over the Afrin region to the state forces of Bashar al-Assad, in exchange for prevention of the Turkish operation against the Kurds. Dibo did not specify who exactly Russia’s offer came through. The SDF nevertheless turned down Moscow’s offer, since, in Dibo’s words, “it does not facilitate the resolution of the Syrian conflict in any way”.

Earlier, the Kurdish “People’s Protection Units” (YPG) who control the Afrin canton said that the Turkish military operation in the region became possible thanks to Russia’s approval. If Russia had not approved, it would not have withdrawn its military contingent from the region, the YPG claims.

  Erdogan, Russia, Turkey, Olive Branch operation, Syria