ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Syrian government should control territory the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) hold, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday.
“We have a principled question: who will control the territory led by the United States? It’s clear the Syrian government should control this part of their territory. However, we have no information about contact between Washington and Damascus on this issue,” Zakharova said.
US President Donald Trump’s surprise announcement of a troop withdrawal from Syria has even confused the Russian government.
Zakharova said Moscow “closely follows” Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria.
“We understand that this decision is crucial and we estimate that this decision will facilitate the comprehensive settlement of the Syrian crisis,” she stated.
“We have repeatedly said the de-facto US occupation of significant parts of Syria territory is a serious obstacle to the settlement of the crisis.”
However, Zakharova added that Russia still does not “understand all the reasons and motives behind the decision,” adding her government has “no clear information about the timeline of the US withdrawal.”
“We are guided by the messages in the mass media that the complete withdrawal of US army from northeastern Syria and the al-Tannaf region will be completed in two or three months,” she added.
According to the foreign ministry spokesperson, there are ambiguous messages by US officials that the American withdrawal does not signal the end of the US-led coalition against the Islamic State (IS).
“So, if this means the US can carry out airstrikes and limited land operations on Syrian territory, this is still a question for us,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Russian FM spokesperson did not confirm if a Syrian Kurdish delegation visited Moscow or if a Kurdish delegation visited the Russian Khmeimim Air Basein Syria this week.
“I refer you to the Defense Ministry,” she said, “as the situation on the ground is up to military commanders.”
On Dec. 23, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that an SDF delegation was visiting Moscow. Also, Al Arabiya reported on Monday that two delegations visited Moscow. There were reportedly also talks between the Kurdish-led administrations and Damascus.
Kamal Akef, the spokesperson for the Diplomatic Relations Center of the Democratic Society Movement (TEV-DEM), confirmed to Al Arabiya that there were meetings, but that there was no agreement yet.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told journalists at a press conference in Ankara on Tuesday that Turkey would never tolerate the presence of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) even if they reach a deal with the Syrian government and control the east of the Euphrates together, Hurriyet reported.
“Would the Syrian regime enter the east of Euphrates; would they dare do so; and whether they are in talks with YPG are issues that need to be confirmed as we follow closely,” Çavuşoğlu said.
However, Zakharova said Russia would continue to coordinate our “views and implementation of policy on the Syrian track with our Turkish colleagues,” despite the Turkish threats.
According to Timur Akhmetov, a researcher at the Russian International Affairs Council, Russia wants to avoid being involved in the conflict between Turkey and the US over the YPG and the Democratic Union Party (PYD).
“Until now, Russia has been gaining in other areas in Syria from strains between two NATO allies. However, if conditions are suitable, Russia would like to see control of the central government in northern Syria restored, especially on the Turkish-Syrian border,” he told Kurdistan 24.
Akhmetov cautioned that “this would require closer cooperation between Ankara and Damascus, especially in regards to the PYD’s status.”
“Either way, Russia is not interested in further military escalation in Syria, particularly another Turkish operation in Syria, and would like to settle things through negotiations.”
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany