Syria’s Assad says Turkish-Russian deal will help him regain northern Syria

Syrian President Bashar Assad said on Thursday that a deal between Turkey and Russia to establish a 30 km deep safe zone in northern Syria would help him eventually restore his authority in the region, Reuters reported.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and its affiliate the People’s Protection Units (YPG) withdrew 30 km south from territories along the Turkish border according to the deal between Ankara and Moscow this month. 

“It might not achieve everything ... it paves the road to liberate this area in the near future we hope,” Reuters quoted Assad as saying in an interview with the Syrian state television. 

President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria paved the way for a Turkish offensive against Kurdish-controlled territories along its border that began on Oct. 9.

Turkey sees the YPG as an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), while the Kurdish fighters has formed the backbone of the U.S.-led coalition forces fighting against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria. 

Trump later decided to deploy some U.S. troops in the eastern Syrian Deir al-Zor region to protect the oil fields. 

The U.S. military said on Thursday that an army unit with armoured vehicles had started operating in Deir al-Zor, Associated Press reported. Some 500 U.S. troops, including roughly 200 who had been there before Trump’s withdrawal decision, will remain deployed in the region, the news wire said. 

Reuters quoted Assad as saying that Trump was the “best American president” for his “complete transparency” about his intentions to maintain control of Syria’s main oilfields.

The Syrian president said his country could not stand up to a great power such as the United States and that ending the presence of U.S. troops on Syrian soil was not achievable soon.

The Kurds would not be asked to immediately hand over their weapons when the Syrian army enters their areas in a final deal with them that brings back state control to the large swathe of territory they now control, Assad said in the interview.

“There are armed groups that we cannot expect they would hand over weapons immediately but the final goal is to return to the previous situation, which is the complete control of the state,” he said.

The Assad government on Wednesday called on Kurdish militia to join the Syrian army to counter what it called the Turkish aggression threatening Syrian territory.