Russia Urges Syrian Kurds to Ally with Assad

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is seen ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin arrival at Hofburg palace on June 5, 2018 in Vienna, Austria. Putin is in Vienna to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the completion of a pipeline that transports Russian gas to Europe.
Thomas Kronsteiner/Getty Images

Russia will urge Kurdish leaders in northern Syria to open talks with Bashar al-Assad’s regime, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday.

Addressing a press conference with his Kazakh counterpart on Thursday, Lavrov argued there needed to be a dialogue between the central government in Damascus and the representatives of the Kurdish communities within northern Syria.

“After the exchange of statements which took place between Washington and Ankara, we contacted the Kurdish community and the government of Syria, and it was confirmed that we continue pushing them towards dialogue in order to put an end to the issues which plague the region, namely security issues and the border between Syria and Turkey,” he said.

“We will do our best to facilitate the start of such discussion and I hope that it will be supported by other stakeholders,” he continued. Negotiations last year between Kurdish authorities and the Syrian regime broke down, as Assad was unwilling to recognize Kurdish autonomy across any Syrian territory.

Lavrov’s comments come after the White House this week announced that the U.S would be relocating troops from northern Syria, a decision which Kurdish militia leaders described as a “stab in the back” while vowing to defend their positions against Turkey “at all costs.”

On Thursday, the Turkish military launched a broad offensive against the Kurdish-controlled regions. After launching their assault with shelling and airstrikes, Turkish forces and their Syrian proxies crossed the border into Kurdish-controlled areas. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the autonomous Kurds’ de facto army, successfully held off two incursion attempts.

This week, Kurdish officials hinted at possible dialogue with the Assad regime. Senior adviser to the Autonomous Administration of North and South Syria (NES) Badran Jia Kur told Reuters that the group would be forced to “study all available options.”

“At that time we may hold talks with Damascus or the Russian side to fill the void or block the Turkish attack, so this may develop and there could be meetings and contacts in case of a vacuum,” he continued.

The invasion, which Erdogan dubbed “Operation Peace Spring,” drew international condemnation, including from the United States. Syria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs showed little sympathydeclaring that Kurdish authorities are to blame for their current misfortune for relying on American support.

“They have been warned more than once before through the meetings held with them of the dangers of the project, and not to be tools in the service of American policies against their homeland. However, these organizations were bent on being tools in the hands of foreigners,” the ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

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