Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks with his Tajik counterpart during their meeting in Moscow on April 9, 2018. Photo: Yuri Kadobnov | AFP
MOSCOW, Russia — The Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov expressed that Moscow believes Afrin should be returned to the control of the Syrian government.
“We always operate on the premise that the simplest way to normalize the situation in Afrin, now that the Turkish representatives say that the main goals they set for themselves there have been achieved, is to return the territory under control of the Syrian government. We have never had another position,” Lavrov said in response to a question by a Rudaw correspondent in Moscow.
Russia, Iran, and Turkey held high-level meetings in Ankara last week.
“The issue of Afrin was actually discussed in light of the position that President Erdogan has repeatedly stated, in particular, as part of the position when the US began to ‘flirt’ with the Kurdish units to use them as a security blanket on the border with Iraq,” said Lavrov on Tuesday.
Days prior to the invasion of Afrin by Turkey, it was announced that the US would train, equip and arm a 30,000 border security force to protect the Syrian border mainly with Iraq.
Turkey’s two-month assault on Afrin killed at least 300 civilians. The subsequent bussing of mostly Arabs from elsewhere in Syria into Afrin has upset Kurds in the canton, fearing Arabization. Turkey claimed the operation was to provide border security against the People’s Protection Units (YPG), deemed by Ankara to be the Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“President Erdogan saw such plans as a threat to the security interests of his country. He never said that Turkey wanted to occupy Afrin,” said Lavrov.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called for Turkey to hand over the Kurdish city of Afrin over to the Syrian Government in the Ankara talks.
The Turkish presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin then responded that the Turkish government won't hand over the city to the Syrian government.
Afrin city's Kurdish population has been displaced and is stuck between the Turkish and Syrian regime forces. Tal Rifaat, a town in the northern Aleppo countryside with a population of around 25,000, has been overwhelmed by an influx of people displaced from Afrin. An estimated 130,000 IDPs are in Tal Rifaat, Nubul, and Zahra, according to ICRC - Syria.