Russians mediate exchange of bodies between Syria’s Kurds and Turkish-backed militias
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Bodies of members of the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) were handed back to the group by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Saturday following Russian mediation, local media have reported.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that Turkish-backed forces had returned the bodies of seven SDF fighters to the SDF, which has yet to confirm if the exchange has taken place. The pro-SDF news agency Hawar News (ANHA) has only reported on the SDF handover.
Pro-SDF social media users, however, reported that the Kurdish-led group has allowed SNA forces to retrieve the bodies of their fighters through Russian mediation. A video shared on social media by an SDF fighter reportedly showed the moment of the exchange.
Nicholas Heras, a Senior Analyst at Washington’s Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy, told Kurdistan 24 that “the Russians are trying to establish good faith measures with the Turks. The Syrian National Army is a Turkish proxy force, and the Russians are deeply engaged with the Turks on discussions on Syria.”
“Russia is trying to show Turkey that it is time to de-escalate the frontline around Ain Issa, which threatens the M4 highway and Russia's longer-term plan to cede all of Syria back to Assad.”
Recently, there has been a surge in attacks by Turkey-backed groups near Syria’s Ain Issa and Tal Tamr, resulting in dozens of deaths.
On Oct. 19, 2019, after a long-threatened Turkish military incursion into northeast Syria to confront Kurdish elements of the SDF, the US mediated a ceasefire between Turkey and the SDF. A second deal brokered by Russia followed on Oct. 22.
Yet despite the agreements and Turkey occupying the border areas of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain (Serekaniye), affiliated Syrian armed groups and the Turkish army itself continue to target SDF-held areas.
In early December 2020, Russia, the SDF, and the Syrian government reached an agreement to create three observation points north of Ain Issa to prevent further Turkish attacks. Despite the deal, fighting near Ain Issa has continued.
Senior Syrian Kurdish officials have regularly called on Russia and the US to pressure Turkey to abide by the ceasefire agreements.
Editing by Khrush Najari