MOSCOW (Dispatches) – Russia says it is bewildered by a Turkish pledge to conduct a new military incursion into northern Syria if the area is not cleared of people Ankara calls terrorists, warning that any such move would damage efforts to stabilize the region.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was cited as saying his country would launch a new military incursion into northeast Syria if the area is not cleared of Kurdish YPG militia.
State-owned Anadolu agency quoted him as saying that Russia and the United States had not done what was required under agreements that halted a Turkish offensive last month and called on them to make good on their pledges.
His comments, and Russia’s frosty reaction to them, reflect emerging tensions over Syria between Moscow and Ankara less than a month after President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan struck a deal that saw Syrian and Russian forces deploy in northeast Syria.
Russia’s Ministry of Defense said on Tuesday it was puzzled by Cavusoglu’s statement on several different levels and that Moscow had carried out in full its obligations under the Putin-Erdogan deal.
"Thanks to a range of measures implemented by the Russian Federation, it was possible to significantly stabilize the situation,” Major General Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, said in a statement.
"The head of the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s call for military action can only escalate the situation in northern Syria rather than sort things out in the way set out in a joint memorandum signed by the presidents of Russia and Turkey,” Konashenkov added.
Ankara views the U.S.-backed YPG as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since 1984. The YPG constitutes the backbone of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
The Kurdish-led administration in northeastern Syria says the Turkish offensive has killed 218 civilians, including 18 children, since its outset. The fighting has also wounded more than 650 people.
Turkish authorities say 20 people have been killed in Turkey by bombardment from Syria, including eight people who were killed in a mortar attack on the town of Nusaybin by YPG militants on October 11.
In this file photo taken on September 08, 2019 a Turkish military vehicle drives on a joint patrol with U.S. troops in the Syrian village of al-Hashisha on the outskirts of Tal Abyad town on the border with Turkey.