Turkey’s Syria offensive aims to form a “safe zone” – pan-Arab newspaper

Turkey’s incursion in Syria is not just about expelling Kurdish militias from its borders, but also to consolidate the Turkish military presence in northern Syria and form a “safe zone” 30 km into Syrian territory, London-based pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat said.

Despite Turkey’s assertions that its incursion in Syria is for border security, the separatist Kurds see it as part of “Turkey’s enmity towards the Kurds”, a Kurdish politician told the newspaper.

Turkey’s ruling party is not only antagonising the Syrian Kurds, but all Kurds, the head of the Germany-based Kurdish Centre for Studies, Nawaf Khalil was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

The northwestern Syrian district of Afrin, currently under Turkish air strikes and artillery bombardment, is one of three regions of the planned Kurdish federal state in Syria.

A previous Turkish military offensive in August 2016 cut through Kurdish-held territories and separated Afrin from the other two Kurdish cantons.

Russia invited the Kurds to the Syrian national dialogue congress scheduled for Sochi next week, but the Syrian Kurds will not take part, a high-ranking Kurdish source told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“Turkey is attacking us under Russian cover and support, so how can we head to a conference that Ankara is attending, and which has been called for by Russia?” an unnamed Kurdish source was quoted by Asharq Al-Awsat as saying.

It cited unnamed experts as saying that Russia and Turkey had made a deal in which Afrin would come under the control of Turkish-backed rebels and in return Syrian government forces would reimpose control over the rebel-held province of Idlib.