ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Sunday said his country could no longer dismiss Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, which Ankara has tried to topple for years by supporting armed opposition in the country.
Yildirim revealed that his government was "in touch" with Damascus as the Turkish army continued air assaults for a second day on Syrian Kurdish-held areas, 48-hours after it announced an invasion that reportedly entered its ground phase.
At least nine people, six of them civilians, have been killed so far in Turkey's "Operation Olive Branch" according to medical sources at Afrin's main hospital.
"There have many wrongdoings, much oppression and too many people were killed, but the regime is a part of the business [process]. We cannot act as if it does not exist," Yildirim said, in televised remarks from Istanbul.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's administration recently launched what appeared to be a behind-the-scenes rapprochement with his Syrian counterpart, Assad, who he has previously called a murderer and dictator.
Blasting the United States for its support to the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), Erdogan last week stated that the Syrian regime was also opposed to Washington further arming and training the Kurdish militia as a border security force.
Last month, the Turkish leader said he would not rule out the possibility of repairing ties with the Damascus regime, whose downfall he expected and supported since the onset of the Syrian civil war in 2011.
In the run-up to the invasion of Afrin, Turkey realigned its position with that of Assad's primary military backer, Russia, whose air force helped the Syrian President retake much of the territory he had lost to Ankara-supported Islamist groups.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that his staff relayed a diplomatic note to Syria's consulate in Istanbul, informing Damascus of the Afrin offensive which came after weeks-long negotiations with Moscow. Turkey was greenlighted to use the neighboring country's airspace to launch attacks on the YPG.
The opposition's Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) described Ankara's silent attempts to restore ties with the Syrian regime as part of a plan destroy Kurdish gains there.
"You consider sitting down with Assad whom you were calling a murderer until yesterday. You are preparing to call him 'my brother.' But, why would you not talk to the Kurdish people?" HDP’s Co-leader Serpil Kemalbay asked Erdogan in November 2017.
Editing by Nadia Riva