As the Turkish military is engaged in preparations for a large-scale military campaign intending to occupy still more of northern Syria, currently under the control of People’s Defence Units (YPG), the major component of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the commander-in-chief of the SDF said that his forces would coordinate with Syrian government troops to fend off Turkish attacks.
Speaking to Reuters in a phone interview on Sunday, Mazloum Abdi said that Damascus should ‘use its air defence systems against Turkish planes.’
The YPG and the SDF, partners of the United States and the international coalition in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria, are perceived by the Turkish administration as extensions of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which has been waging a struggle for the rights of the Kurdish people in Turkey for over 40 years and which is designated a ‘terrorist group’ by Ankara.
Turkish war planes were allowed to use Syrian air space by both the US and Russia, in Turkey’s previous military campaigns, which resulted in the occupation of 8,835 square kilometres (3,411 sq mi) and over 1000 settlements, including cities like Afrin, al-Bab, Azaz, Jarabulus, Jindires, Rajo, Tell Abyad (Girê Spî) and Ras al-Ayn (Serê Kaniyê).
Abdi said that his forces were ‘open to working with Syrian troops’ to fight off Turkey but said there was no need to send additional forces.
“The essential thing that the Syrian army could do to defend Syrian territory would be use air defence systems against Turkish planes,” he added.
In a statement on 30 May, the Syrian government rejected Turkey’s plan to create a ‘safe zone’ in northern Syria, and condemned the Turkish attacks, which it said, constituted ‘war crimes’.
Noting that more military coordination with Damascus would not threaten the autonomous rule exercised by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), Abdi said:
“Our priority is defending Syrian territory, and no one should think about taking advantage of that situation to make gains on the ground.”
Abdi also warned that a new Turkish offensive would displace around one million people and lead to ‘wider zones’ of fighting, and that it could lead to a resurgence of ISIS, which the SDF had ousted from large areas in north and east Syria with the logistic, intelligence and air support of the US.
“We cannot fight on two fronts,” Abdi stressed.