WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) – Russia’s Defense Ministry issued a statement Saturday holding the US responsible for Turkey’s assault on Afrin while justifying Ankara’s attack on the Kurdish canton in western Syria.
“The main reasons that have contributed to the development of a critical situation in this part of Syria,” a statement from the Defense Ministry read, “were the provocative US steps aimed at the separation of regions with a predominantly Kurdish population,” Sputnik International reported.
“Uncontrolled deliveries of modern weapons, including reportedly the deliveries of the man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), by the Pentagon to the pro-US forces in northern Syria, have contributed to the rapid escalation of tensions in the region,” the statement continued, resulting “in the launch of a special operation by the Turkish troops.”
Al-Masdar News, which has close ties to the Syrian regime, claimed last Monday that the US had provided MANPADS to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), America’s chief ally in Syria against the Islamic State (IS.) Other news outlets quickly picked up on the report, even as US spokesmen declined to deny or confirm it, citing “operational security concerns.”
The al-Masdar report followed a series of statements from US officials, starting a week ago, explaining that the US intended to maintain an open-ended presence in eastern Syria, while the SDF would become the core of a 30,000 man Border Defense Force.
The US statements prompted opposition from Turkey, as well as Syria and Russia, both of which see a continuing US presence in eastern Syria as an obstacle to their goal of extending the regime’s control to the entire country.
Iran, which is allied with Syria and Russia, has an additional reason for opposing the US plan because a key US objective would be to block Iran’s land bridge to the Mediterranean.
With Russia controlling the airspace over Afrin, the Turkish assault on the Kurdish canton would have been impossible without Moscow’s agreement. On Thursday, Turkey’s Chief of the General Staff and the head of the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) visited Russia.
Neither party disclosed the results of the meeting. However, once the Turkish assault began, it became clear that Ankara had received a green light from Moscow.
France 24 reported on Saturday that the Turkish envoys “clearly got what they came for,” as the French media outlet characterized Moscow as having “sided with Turkey.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry did say on Saturday that it was “concerned” about the situation and urged all sides “to exercise mutual restraint.”
However, as Moscow could have blocked the Turkish assault on Afrin, the Foreign Ministry statement made little impression, and the leadership of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which dominates the SDF, said it would hold Russia “equally responsible” for the attack.
In addition to supporting its own ally in Damascus, Russia almost certainly seeks to increase further the already considerable tensions between the US and its NATO ally.
Editing by Nadia Riva