Russia repeats opposition to Turkish operation in Syria after Astana talks
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Moscow again urged Turkey on Thursday to give up the idea of conducting a new military operation in northeast Syria, Russia's state news agency TASS reported.
Since late May, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly threatened to launch a new operation in Manbij and Tal Rifaat to dislodge Kurdish-led forces there.
However, such an operation might not be possible without a Russian or American green light.
"A final decision on the operation has not been made yet and, therefore, we called on our Turkish partners and are urging them to refrain from such military actions on Syrian soil," the Special Russian Presidential Representative for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev told reporters Thursday.
Lavrentyev made the remark after the 18th Astana format talks on Syria between Iran, Russia, Turkey, and the Syrian opposition, in Nur Sultan, Kazakhstan, that lasted from June 15-16.
In the meeting, Iran, Russia, and Turkey "reaffirmed that all attempts to create illegitimate self-rule initiatives under the pretext of combating terrorism are unacceptable," the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a press release on Thursday.
"They condemned the actions of countries that support terrorist entities, including illegitimate self-rule initiatives in the north east of Syria."
However, Lavrentyev emphasized that a Turkish operation might "encourage separatist sentiments of the so-called Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), in which neither Turkey, nor Russia, nor Iraq, nor Iran is interested."
The Russian official said a "Turkish military operation would not resolve all those problems that exist today and, primarily, it would not fully resolve the problem of Turkey's national security."
The official underlined that Turkey's national security problems can only be resolved if the Syrian government forces retake full control of the borders of the territories.
However, the Russian official said that "unfortunately, we are not seeing this and basically the Kurdish self-defense forces are, indeed, present there so far."
After Turkey conducted a military operation into northeastern Syria in October 2019, Russia and the US reached separate ceasefire deals with Ankara. Moreover, Turkey took control of Tal Abyad and Serekaniye in Syria's Hasakah province.
Under the Russia-Turkey deal, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) must withdraw its forces up to 30 kilometers from the Turkish-Syrian border.
Turkey has complained that this agreement has not been implemented. On the other hand, the SDF regularly accuses Turkey of violating the agreement by shelling SDF-held areas.
In October 2019, Syrian armed forces entered Tal Tamr and other towns under a Russia-backed agreement with the SDF following a Turkish operation in the area.
Turkey recently had several meetings with Russian officials over Ukraine and Syria. But so far, Turkey has not been able to change the Russian position.
Read More: Turkish operation complicated by Russian objections and interests: analysts
"The Russians are especially concerned that Turkey will create new realities on the ground in Syria that will be irreversible," Nicholas Heras, deputy director of the Human Security Unit at the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy, told Kurdistan 24 on Friday.
"Already, Turkish-controlled areas throughout northern Syria have become de facto Turkish territory, which frustrates Russia's efforts to return the Syrian government's sovereignty over all of Syria."