Members of the SDF stand on a street in the northern Syrian city of Manbij on August 7, 2016, as they comb the city in search of the last remaining jihadists, a day after they retook it from ISIS. Photo: Delil Souleiman | AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The mostly-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces denied rumors of an agreement to fight alongside the Assad regime in an assault on Idlib governorate.
“We declare that such rumors are incorrect, neither our participation in such operations, nor any negotiations or coordination with the Syrian regime,” stated SDF spokesperson Kino Gabriel on Monday.
Media has reported that former co-chair of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) Salih Muslim called fighting for Idlib the duty of Kurds. The PYD is the political arm of the YPG, which comprises the bulk of the SDF.
Over the past week, regime forces, supported by Russia, have heavily bombed Turkish-backed opposition groups in Syria's western governorate of Idlib.
Officially, the SDF now has decided to keep most of its operations east of the Euphrates, in Deir ez-Zor, Kobane, and Jazira.
“The Syrian Democratic Forces are committed to their programs and plans to finish the military operations the [sic] we started to liberate the northern Deir Ezzor countryside, and focus on defeating ISIS from its last pocket in the Middle Euphrates River Valley, as preparations for the final phase of Operation Roundup are ongoing,” continued the SDF statement.
The YPJ lost their Afrin canton, located in nearby Aleppo governorate, after a two-month battle with Turkey and its proxy fighters. The regime of Bashar al-Assad had promised to send reinforcements towards the end of the Afrin battle, but that never came to fruition. Damascus has also threatened to take back all areas of Syria, including Kurdish-administered Rojava, also called Syrian Kurdistan.
The YPJ has announced a withdrawal from Manbij, where the SDF says it has removed its advisors. Manbij is currently governed by US-backed civilian and military councils. US forces are conducting coordinated, but separate patrols with the Turkish military around Manbij.
“Despite our efforts to enforce calm and stability as SDF on our shared borders with our neighbors especially Turkey, the latter continues its violations against people on the border and on a daily basis. That’s to spread fear among the local people and preventing them from living and working on their land,” the SDF separately stated on Monday.
The regime and Kurds separately have called on Turkey to respect Syrian sovereignty.
“We as the SDF have tried throughout the Syria conflict to keep the security of the border with Turkey and we’ve never initiated any tensions or crisis on the border,” added the SDF.
The PYD has alleged that areas occupied by Turkish forces are being Arabized and people from other places the country are being given lands and dwellings. Turkey says Afrin and other areas of northern Syria will be returned to its rightful inhabitants.
“We ask the international community and the world to play their role in stopping Turkey and its violations,” the SDF stated.
Turkey considers the SDF and YPG to be Syrian extensions of the Kurdistan Workers' Party.
Kurdish forces and Syrian loyalists have avoided large-scale clashes through the conflict that began in 2011 and has claimed the lives of some 400,000 Syrians.