MESOP MIDEAST WATCH: Russia voices opposition to new Syria offensive by Turkey as Damascus deploys troops

“Such a move would be a direct violation of Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the spokesperson of Russia’s Foreign Ministry has said


Russia has urged Turkey not to launch a new military operation into Syria as Ankara continues to express its intentions to create a 30-kilometer deep safe zone along the country’s southern borders.

Releasing a written statement about the issue yesterday (June 2), Maria Zakharova, the spokesperson of Russia’s Foreign Ministry, said, “We hope that Ankara will refrain from actions that could lead to a dangerous deterioration of the already difficult situation in Syria.

“Such a move, in the absence of the agreement of the legitimate government of the Syrian Arab Republic, would be a direct violation of Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“We understand Ankara’s concerns regarding threats to Turkey’s national security emanating from the border regions,” in a statement published on the ministry’s website.”

Syria amasses troops

Meanwhile, government forces of Syria have reportedly deployed reinforcements to the city of Tall Rifat and its surroundings in the north of Aleppo amid Turkey’s preparations.

According to London-based Middle East Monitor, local sources said that four military columns have entered areas controlled by the regime and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and troops are equipped with heavy machine guns and tanks.

Greenfield: We strongly oppose any military escalation in Syria

Linda Thomas Greenfield, the US ambassador to the United Nations, also voiced opposition to a new military incursion by Turkey.

“Washington is against any military escalation in Syria,” she said yesterday during a visit to Hatay, a southern province neighboring Syria.

“The U.S. would strongly oppose any military escalation in Syria that would upend ceasefire lines and cause further destabilization. It is only through diplomacy and dialogue that we can achieve a lasting and just end to the conflict.

“We have engaged with the Turkish Government. We think that nothing should be done to break the ceasefire lines that have already been established. And if any efforts are made on that front, it’s going to increase the suffering, it’s going to increase the number of people who are displaced, and possibly even the number of people who may try to cross the border into Turkey.”

What happened?

President and Justice and Development Party Chair Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on May 23 that a new military operation in north Syria might be coming soon to create a “safe zone” along the borderline.

On Jun 1, the president repeated his statements adding, “Turkey will target the towns of Tell Rifaat and Manbij in Syria’s northwestern Aleppo governorate.”

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said they would oppose a new military offensive by Turkey.

“Any escalation in northern Syria is something that we would oppose, and we support the maintenance of the current ceasefire lines.”

In his statement, Blinken also emphasized the importance of the fight against ISIS in Syria, without openly naming the People’s Defense Units (YPG).

“We continue, effectively, to take the fight through partners to ISIS within Syria, and we don’t want to see anything that jeopardizes the efforts that are made to continue to keep ISIS in the box that we put it in.”

SDF Commander-in-chief Mazlum Abdi said yesterday (June 2) on Twitter that “Turkey’s new military offensive into Syria will harm the fight against ISIS.”

“We are concerned about the possible threats. It poses a high risk on northern Syria,” said Abdi adding: “Any offensive will divide Syrians, create a new humanitarian crisis, and displace locals and immigrants.”

“An increase in the tension will derail our fight against ISIS. We are calling on actors to decrease the tension and prevent new tragedies.”

SDF is the defense force of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) and is an umbrella group that includes Kurdish, Arab, Assyrian, Armenian, and Turkmen groups. People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish armed group is the primary component of the SDF.

The Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) have launched four major offensives into northern Syria — “Operation Euphrates Shield” in 2016, “Operation Olive Branch” in 2018, “Operation Peace Spring” in 2019, and “Operation Spring Shield” in 2020. (SD/AEK/TB/VK)