Turkey’s planned military operation in Syria may benefit Russia - analysis

A Turkish incursion into Kurdish-held enclaves in northeast Syria could empower Russia to mediate a deal between the Kurds and the Syrian government, said an analysis in the Moscow Times on Tuesday. 

Turkey and the United States last week started setting up a joint operations centre in Turkey for a planned safe zone in northeast Syria, which Ankara demands for national security reasons.

Turkey sees the predominantly-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and its affiliate, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), as extensions of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and has repeatedly said it plans to launch a military offensive against the YPG, which controls some enclaves in northeast Syria along the Turkish border. The YPG forms the backbone of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria.

Russia believes that U.S. support for the Kurds and Turkish support for Syrian opposition groups contributes to continued foreign interference in Syria, according to Ruslan Mamedov, a programme coordinator at the Russian International Affairs Council.

But Russia also cooperates with Turkey in Syria’s Idlib province, the last rebel-held enclave in the country, where armed clashes between jihadi groups and Russian-backed Syrian forces have escalated since April.

“The rationale seems to be that the start of Turkish military operation may in fact benefit Moscow,” Mamedov said. “The calculation is that once Turkey launches its assault and the Americans are unable to provide a cover for them, the Kurds may turn to Russia, empowering Moscow to try to create the conditions for yet another attempt at a rapprochement between the Kurds and Bashar al-Assad’s government.”

A Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said last week that Moscow supported dialogue between Damascus and the Kurdish administrations in the north and east of the country.

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