Turkish soldiers near Turkey’s border with Syria’s Idlib. Photo: Ilyas Akengin / AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Kurdish authorities in Rojava say they are ready to take part in a Syrian government operation in Idlib if doing so brings them closer to retaking Afrin, which was seized by the Turkish military and its Syrian opposition proxies earlier this year.
“One of the steps towards liberating Afrin is that we must put pressure on Turkey and ask them to withdraw from the soil of Syria completely – and our enclaves in particular,” Aldar Khalil, co-president of the executive body of the Movement for a Democratic Society (TEV-DEM), told Rudaw.
“To evict them, we must try whatever means necessary, be they diplomatic efforts, military means, or through the media,” he added.
The defeat of Turkish troops in Idlib would pave the way for their defeat in Afrin, he said.
TEV-DEM is the governing coalition in Rojava, the Kurdish-dominated self-autonomous enclave in northern Syria. The Democratic Union Party (PYD), the main party within TEV-DEM, has been excluded from the Geneva and Astana processes, at the insistence of Ankara.
Preparations for the Syrian government’s Idlib operation are expected to begin soon after President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, with Russian and Iranian backing, retook swathes of territory around the capital Damascus and areas in the country’s southwest.
Idlib province is controlled by the Nusra Front – a former al-Qaeda affiliate – and Turkish troops.
Rojava authorities are yet to make an official statement on their involvement in such an operation, nor have they been invited to take part by the Assad government, Khalil said.
In recent remarks, Assad hinted his government will soon shift its focus from the south to the north to retake territories from several different armed groups.
The Turkish army has carried out military operations in northern Syria, dubbed Operation Euphrates Shield and Operation Olive Branch, alongside the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Their stated aim is to clear the Turkish border of ISIS and Kurdish groups, which Ankara consider terrorists.