Monitor: Kurdish-led SDF forces arrive in Moscow to discuss future of east Euphrates
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A delegation of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has arrived in Moscow to discuss a possible plan to stop a Turkish attack as well as the future of the east of the Euphrates, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said on Sunday.
The SOHR cited sources which said the SDF delegation and Russian authorities were expected to meet in Moscow “in the coming hours” to discuss the future of east Euphrates.
According to the monitor, the Russians offered to deploy border guards from the Syrian army in the border area from the east of Euphrates to the Tigris River in the Syrian – Iraqi – Turkish border triangle.
However, SOHR said debates continue about who would manage the areas that are under the control of the SDF in the east of the Euphrates.
It said the SDF demands Moscow to send regular Syrian army forces and not the Iran-backed Popular Defense Forces that were deployed on Feb. 20 in Afrin. Turkish airstrikes killed around 36 of them.
So far, SDF officials and those from the Democratic Union Party (PYD) have not confirmed the news. “I have no information about this,” one senior official told Kurdistan 24.
Maxwell B. Markusen, an Associate Fellow of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said the Russians are now the Kurds’ best chance for survival.
“A negotiated settlement with the Russians and Assad regime is not likely to give the Kurds the same degree of autonomy enjoyed under the US-led coalition, but would represent a change from the brutal oppression and lack of civil rights that the Kurds faced before the Syrian civil war,” he told Kurdistan 24.
Senior Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) official Ilham Ahmed said that all “arrows point to Moscow” for negotiations with Damascus, as reported by Al-Monitor on Thursday.
According to Timur Akhmetov, a researcher at the Russian International Affairs Council, Russia will avoid being involved in the conflict between Turkey and the US over the 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.
However, 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.”
Joost Hiltermann, the MENA programme director at the International Crisis Group, said although the US and Russia could prevent a Turkish invasion, the People’s Protection Units (YPG) would still have to make a deal with Damascus.
“At this point, not a very good [deal],” he told Kurdistan 24. “Much depends on Russia. But their bottom line is to bring the regime back in all parts of Syria.”
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany