SDF Commander-in-Chief thanks President Putin for ‘protecting the Kurdish people’
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Commander-in-Chief, Mazlum Abdi, in a video call with Russia’s military leadership, thanked President Vladimir Putin for protecting the Kurdish people after the first Russian patrol was carried out in the city of Kobani.
The SDF head on Wednesday evening spoke to Russian Defense Minister, Sergey Shoygu, and Russian Army Chief of Staff, Valery Gerasimov, to discuss Tuesday’s Sochi agreement in which President Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan decided on the future of northern Syria.
“I would like to thank President Putin for the efforts to protect our people and halt military operations. Military forces are being deployed to new areas,“ Abdi said in a video that was released by Russia’s state broadcaster Russia Today.
According to an SDF statement, the Kurdish leader also “expressed reservations about some terms of the agreement, which require further discussions and dialogue to align views.”
Civilians living in Kurdish border towns were relieved with the deal coming into effect, hoping it would prevent new Turkish attacks as the US-Turkish agreed ceasefire ended Tuesday night.
Early Wednesday, Russian forces’ armored vehicles for the first time patrolled the Syrian border in Kobani as part of the agreement.
“They came to the borders and carried out a patrol,” Kobani Military Council leader, Ismat Sheikh Hassan, told Kurdistan 24, adding that it was a joint patrol.
The 10-point Sochi agreement allows Turkey to keep the land between Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad it seized in the assault into Syria, which it dubbed “Operation Peace Spring.”
The agreement also called for the removal of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the SDF’s military leadership, 30 kilometers south of the Turkish border in two other areas: the territory to the east and the territory to the west of the land taken by Turkey in “Operation Peace Spring.”
So far, it’s unclear if the Russians will allow the SDF other than the YPG to maintain some of its forces on the border.
While the SDF leader talked to Russian military leadership, the top Syrian Kurdish political leader, Ilham Ahmed, testified before the House Oversight and Reform’s National Security subcommittee in Washington.
Nicholas Heras, a Fellow at the Center for a New American Security, told Kurdistan 24 that the SDF cannot survive without great power patronage, and both Russia and the United States could fill that role.
“At the heart of the challenge to the SDF is that both Russia and the United States are willing to use Turkey’s military campaign in northeast Syria as leverage against the SDF.”
“For the time being, Russia is willing to step in along the Syrian-Turkish border region, where the United States is now absent, and give the SDF some hope of a shield against Turkish attacks. “
Nevertheless, he said, the SDF would still try to salvage the relationship with the US to preserve its long-fought autonomy. “As fickle as the United States may be, US patronage could be the best of bad options for the SDF to survive.”
Editing by Nadia Riva