24 February 2018

Russia: US actions in Syria either provocative or ill-informed

KONFRONTASI-Russia has slammed US actions in Syria that “encourage separatist sentiments among Kurds” as either a provocation or ill-informed after Turkey launched a major operation against US-backed militants in the Arab country.

"Washington has actively encouraged and continues to encourage separatist sentiments among Kurds," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday.

"This is either a lack of understanding of the situation or an absolutely conscious provocation," he added.

Turkey launched the so-called Operation Olive Branch on Saturday in a bid to eliminate the US-backed YPG, which Ankara views as a terror organization and the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK). The latter has been fighting for an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984.

The operation was launched days after Washington said it would work with the Kurdish militants to set up a 30,000-strong border force near Turkish soil, a move that infuriated Ankara.

The YPG is operating under the larger US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militants without authorization from Damascus, which calls the force “traitors” to the Syrian nation.

‘Kurds invited to join Sochi talks’

Lavrov said Moscow had invited Kurds to participate in an upcoming Syrian peace congress in Sochi despite the Turkish offensive.

"Kurdish representatives have been included on the list of Syrians invited to participate in the Syrian National Dialogue Congress which will take place in Sochi next week," Lavrov said.

Last December, Russia and Iran agreed with Turkey to hold a "Congress of National Dialogue" in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on January 29 and 30.

Syria's government immediately announced that it would attend the event, however, 40 Syrian "opposition" groups rejected the Russian initiative.

Operation Olive Branch in the Afrin region is Turkey's second major military intervention in Syria during an unprecedented foreign-backed militancy that broke out in 2011.

In August 2016, Turkey began a unilateral military intervention in northern Syria, code-named Operation Euphrates Shield, sending tanks and warplanes across the border.

Ankara claimed that its military campaign was aimed at pushing Daesh terrorists from Turkey's border with Syria and stopping the advance of Kurdish forces. 

Turkey ended its military campaign in northern Syria in March 2017, but at the time it did not rule out the possibility of another incursion into the Arab country.[mr/ptv]

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