Posted tagged ‘Aleppo’

Russia to give strongest air support to Syrian army in Aleppo area

June 6, 2016

Russia to give strongest air support to Syrian army in Aleppo area – Lavrov

Published time: 6 Jun, 2016 12:32 Edited time: 6 Jun, 2016 12:59

Source: Russia to give strongest air support to Syrian army in Aleppo area – Lavrov — RT News

Igor Kovalenko / Sputnik

“We will decide on how our air forces should act, depending on the situation,” Lavrov said in a media conference following talks with his Finnish counterpart. “This will not be a surprise for the Americans.”

Al-Nusra Front, an al Qaeda offshoot in Syria, went on an offensive in Aleppo last week. The Russian military blamed the US for stalling Russian airstrikes against the terrorist group’s forces in the region. The US said moderate rebel groups mingled with the terrorists in some areas and that Russia should use caution and not strike those groups by mistake.

“We believe there was plenty of time for the ‘normal’ opposition to leave Nusra Front territories since February. Those who didn’t part ways with the terrorists have only themselves to blame,” Lavrov added.

Moscow hopes that the US is not trying to do anything behind Russia’s back, Lavrov said.

“We expect our partners to cooperate with us honestly and not try to use our regular contacts to secretly go with a Plan B, C or D behind our back.”

Russia and the US jointly support a peace process in Syria that aims to produce a transition government approved by both the so-called “moderate rebel” groups and the government of Syria. A truce between all sides who claim to share this goal was established in February, reducing the violence in the war-torn country.

READ MORE: 270 civilians killed in terrorist shelling in Syria as Al-Nusra regroups – Russian MoD

Terrorist groups Al Nusra Front and Islamic State are not part of the process and do not uphold the ceasefire. Russia accuses certain other Islamist militant groups operating in Syria of not being honest and siding with the terrorists, but the US opposes designating those groups as legitimate targets for military attacks, arguing that they have the backing of Saudi Arabia and a place at the negotiating table in Geneva.

The situation is further complicated by the sheer number of armed groups in Syria and the complexity of their allegiances and rivalries, which makes distinguishing terrorists and “moderate rebels” often problematic.

50 ISIS fighters killed in Syria regime Aleppo advance: monitor

February 21, 2016

50 ISIS fighters killed in Syria regime Aleppo advance: monitor

Source: 50 ISIS fighters killed in Syria regime Aleppo advance: monitor – Al Arabiya English

Residents inspect damage after an airstrike on the rebel held al-Fardous neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria February 18, 2016. (Reuters)

At least 50 ISIS group fighters have been killed in the last 24 hours in an advance by Syrian government forces east of Aleppo city, a monitor said Sunday.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the fighters were killed in clashes as well as strikes by Russian forces that are waging an aerial campaign in support of government troops.

Since Saturday morning, Syrian government forces have taken more than a dozen villages from ISIS jihadists around a stretch of highway that runs east from the northern city of Aleppo to the Kweyris military base.

The advances have consolidated government control over the stretch of highway leading to Kweyris, which they seized in November.

“The army has encircled ISIS in 16 villages south of the road. The regime wants to take these villages to consolidate its position in the east and southeast of the province,” said Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman.

The advances follow a major regime operation in northern Aleppo against rebel forces that has allowed them to virtually surround the opposition-held east of Aleppo city.

Turkey wants secure line made 10 km within Syria, including Azaz, Deputy PM says

February 17, 2016

Turkey wants secure line made 10 km within Syria, including Azaz, Deputy PM says


Source: Turkey wants secure line made 10 km within Syria, including Azaz, Deputy PM says – Daily Sabah

Displaced Syrians fleeing areas in the northern embattled province of Aleppo, walk past tents at the Bab al-Salama camp, set up outside the Syrian city of Azaz on Syrias northern border with Turkey  (AFP Photo)
Displaced Syrians fleeing areas in the northern embattled province of Aleppo, walk past tents at the Bab al-Salama camp, set up outside the Syrian city of Azaz on Syria’s northern border with Turkey (AFP Photo)

Turkey wants a secure strip of territory 10 km (6.2 miles) deep on the Syrian side of its border, including the town of Azaz, to prevent attempts to “change the demographic structure” of the area and for humanitarian purposes, Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan said on Wednesday.

Assad forces backed by Russian air strikes have advanced towards the Turkish border in a major offensive in recent weeks. YPG fighters, regarded by Ankara as terrorists, have taken advantage of the violence to seize territory from Syrian rebels.

Turkey has accused the YPG of pursuing “demographic change” in northern Syria by forcibly displacing Turkmen and Arab communities.

“There is a game being played with the aim of changing the demographic structure. Turkey should not be part of this game,” Akdoğan said in an interview on the AHaber television station.

“What we want is to create a secure strip, including Azaz, 10 km deep inside Syria and this zone should be free from clashes,” he said.

Azaz is the last rebel stronghold before the border with Turkey north of the Syrian city of Aleppo, part of what was, before the Assad offensive, a supply route from Turkey to the rebels fighting Assad.

It has come under heavy assault in recent days, but Turkey has said it will not let the town fall into the hands of the Kurdish YPG militia.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel had also said that she supports Ankara’s proposal for a no-fly zone in northern Syria.

Ankara has been requesting that the U.N. establish “safe zones” in Syria since 2012 but could not find the necessary international support.

Turkey, home to more than 2.6 million Syrian refugees, has long pushed for the creation of a safe zone in northern Syria to protect displaced civilians, avoiding the need to bring them into Turkey.

But the proposal has so far gained little traction with Washington or NATO allies who fear it would require an internationally patrolled no-fly zone which could put them in direct confrontation with Assad and his allies.

Akdoğan said another 600,000 people could flee to the Turkish border if Aleppo falls to the Syrian army.

Turkey launched 100+ artillery strikes on Syrian towns in Aleppo

February 17, 2016

Turkey launched 100+ artillery strikes on Syrian towns in Aleppo

Russian military Published time: 16 Feb, 2016 20:55

Source: Turkey launched 100+ artillery strikes on Syrian towns in Aleppo – Russian military — RT News

© Abdalrhman Ismail
Both government and opposition-held towns in Syria over the border from Turkey have fallen under Ankara’s shelling that began last week, according the Russian Ministry of Defense.

Turkey’s artillery has fired more than 100 shells at bordering areas in the northwest province of Aleppo, targeting both Syrian government forces and the opposition, MoD spokesman Igor Konashenkov told reporters on Tuesday.

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Emblem on the fence of the building of the Russian Defense Ministry on Frunzenskaya Embankment in Moscow. © Natalia Seliverstova

“Since the end of the last week Turkey has been launching massive artillery strikes on the Syrian government and the Syrian opposition at the border areas. Impartial monitoring bodies have detected more than a hundred rounds of fire that targeted border towns in the province of Aleppo,” Konashenkov said.

Last week Turkey started pounding Syrian Kurdish forces with fire in northern Syria in an apparent attempt to stop them from taking over the city of Azaz, Aleppo.

On Monday, at least 14 people were killed after missiles hit a children’s hospital, a school and other buildings, witnesses told Reuters. Ankara was quick to blame Russia for the strikes in Azaz.

Monday’s attacks have been condemned by the international community, with the UN calling on war parties to reduce hostility ahead of the planned ceasefire in Syria.

On a separate occasion, members of the United Nations Security Council expressed their concern with the aggressive actions carried out by Ankara in Syria and will urge it to follow international law.

“The UN Security Council members are concerned with the Turkish attacks on a number of Syrian regions,” UNSC President Rafael Ramirez said, according to TASS news agency, after a meeting held upon Russia’s request, adding that the members “have agreed to ask Turkey to obey international law.”

Russia’s ministry of defense statement came as a response to Turkish officials who accused Moscow of conducting a deadly attack on Syrian civilians. On Monday, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu claimed a Russian warship in the Caspian Sea launched a ballistic missile that hit a hospital in the Idlib province. Following the hospital, reports of five medical facilitates and several schools being attacked in the city of Azaz also emerged.

Russia shrugged off the fresh claims on Tuesday saying there are no warships in the Caspian fleet “capable of launching ballistic missiles.”

The allegations, described as “empty” and “unfounded” were overturned by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as well.

Turkey continues to shell PYD positions in northern Syria

February 14, 2016

Turkey continues to shell PYD positions in northern Syria

KİLİS – Anadolu Agency


Source: Turkey continues to shell PYD positions in northern Syria – MIDEAST

Turkish troops are continuing to shell Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) positions in Syria’s Azaz district, located in the countryside north of Aleppo, Turkish security sources confirmed on Feb. 14.

The shelling was first reported on Feb. 13 night when Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said the army had returned artillery fire after coming under attack by PYD forces based around Azaz in northern Syria. He had said the response was within Turkey’s rules of engagement.

According to the Turkish military, the Akcabağlar base in Turkey’s border province of Kilis was shelled on Feb. 13 by “PYD/PKK [the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party]” forces.

On Feb. 14 the Turkish army continued to shell PYD positions, military sources said. Artillery fire could also be heard in Kilis.

Turkish military sources added that several Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) positions had been destroyed and the militants also reportedly suffered casualties.

Azaz in Aleppo province has been the scene of recent heavy fighting and the YPG have advanced to Azaz, just six kilometers from the Turkish border.

Turkish military repeatedly shell Assad forces; Kurds confirm to RT being hit by massive attack

February 14, 2016

Turkish military repeatedly shell Assad forces; Kurds confirm to RT being hit by massive attack

Published time: 13 Feb, 2016 16:17 Edited time: 14 Feb, 2016 00:56

Source: Turkish military repeatedly shell Assad forces; Kurds confirm to RT being hit by massive attack — RT News

The Turkish army has shelled Syrian government forces in Aleppo and Latakia provinces, while also hitting Kurdish targets near the city of Azaz in northwestern Syria, including an air base recently retaken from Islamist rebels, with a massive attack.

Anatolia news agency reported that the Turkish military hit Syrian government forces on Saturday, adding that the shelling had been in response to fire inflicted on a Turkish military guard post in Turkey’s southern Hatay region.

Turkish artillery targeted Syrian forces again late on Saturday, according to a military source quoted by RIA Novosti. The attack targeted the town of Deir Jamal in the Aleppo Governorate.

The agency also cited details of an earlier attack on Syrian government army positions in northwestern Latakia.

“Turkey’s artillery opened fire on the positions of the Syrian Army in the vicinity of Aliya mountain in the northwestern part of the province of Latakia,” the source said.

Meanwhile, the Turkish shelling of Kurdish positions continued for more than three hours almost uninterruptedly, a Kurdish source told RT, adding that the Turkish forces are using mortars and missiles and firing from the Turkish border not far from the city of Azaz in the Aleppo Governorate.

The shelling targeted the Menagh military air base and the nearby village of Maranaz, where “many civilians were wounded,” local journalist Barzan Iso told RT. He added that Kurdish forces and their allies among “the Syrian democratic forces” had taken control of the air base on Thursday.

According to Iso, the Menagh base had previously been controlled by the Ahrar ash-Sham Islamist rebel group, which seized it in August of 2013. The journalist also added that Ahrar ash-Sham militants at the base had been supported by Al-Nusra terrorists and some extremist groups coming from Turkey.

Ahrar ash-Sham is a militant group that has trained teenagers to commit acts of terror in Damascus, Homs, and Latakia provinces, according to data provided to the Russian Defense Ministry by Syrian opposition forces.

The group, which has intensified its attacks on the Syrian government forces since January, was getting “serious reinforcements from Turkey,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said during a briefing in Moscow on January 21.

A source in the Turkish government confirmed to Reuters that the Turkish military had shelled Kurdish militia targets near Azaz on Saturday.

The Turkish Armed Forces fired shells at PYD positions in the Azaz area,” the source said, referring to the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Ankara views as a terrorist group.

A Turkish security official told Reuters that the shelling of the Kurds had been a response to a shelling of Turkish border military outposts by the PYD and forces loyal to Damascus, as required under Turkish military rules of engagement.

Turkey’s PM Davutoglu also confirmed that the country’s forces had struck Syrian Kurdish fighters and demanded that the Kurds retreat from all of the areas that they had recently seized.

“The YPG will immediately withdraw from Azaz and the surrounding area and will not go close to it again,” he told reporters, adding that Turkey “will retaliate against every step [by the YPG],” Reuters reports.

A Kurdish official confirmed to Reuters that the shelling had targeted the Menagh air base located south of Azaz.

According to the official, the base had been captured by the Jaysh al-Thuwwar rebel group, which is an ally of PYD and a member of the Syria Democratic Forces alliance.

Syrian Kurds are actively engaged in the fight against the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group and have been recently described as “some of the most successful” forces fighting IS jihadists in Syria by US State Department spokesman John Kirby, AFP reports.

Earlier, the US also called the PYD an “important partner” in the fight against Islamic State, adding that US support of the Kurdish fighters “will continue.”

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) speaks to German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, February 13, 2016. © Michael Dalder

Turkey’s shelling of the Syrian Kurds comes just days after a plan to end hostilities in Syria was presented in Munich after a meeting of the so-called International Syria Support Group (ISSG), in which Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, US Secretary of State John Kerry, and UN Special Envoy on Syria Staffan de Mistura participated.

‘We will strike PYD’ – Turkish PM

Earlier on Saturday, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu threatened Syrian Kurds with military action, saying that Turkey will resort to force against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) if it considers the step “necessary.”

As I have said, the link between the YPG and the [outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK is obvious. If the YPG threatens our security, then we will do what is necessary,” Davutoglu said on February 10, as quoted by the Hurriyet Daily.

“The leadership cadre and ideology of the PKK and PYD is the same,” he argued in a televised speech in the eastern city of Erzincan on Saturday, AFP reports.

Davutoglu also said that if there is a threat to Turkey, “we will strike PYD like we did Qandil,” referring to a bombing campaign waged by Turkey against the PKK in its Qandil mountain stronghold in northern Iraq, Daily Sabah reports.

Turkey regards the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military wing, the YPG, as affiliates of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a decade-long insurgency against Turkish authorities, demanding autonomy for Turkish Kurds.

The latest developments come as Turkey continues a relentless crackdown on Kurds in its southeastern region. Ankara launched a military operation against Kurdish insurgents from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in July of 2015, breaking a ceasefire signed in 2013.

Turkey’s General Staff claim that Turkish forces killed more than 700 PKK rebels during the offensive in the southeastern districts of Cizre and Sur. Meanwhile, Amnesty International has reported that at least 150 civilians, including women in children, were killed in the Turkish military operation, adding that over 200,000 lives have been put at risk.

According to the Turkish Human Rights Foundation, at least 198 civilians, including 39 children, have been murdered in the area since August of 2015.


Syria invasion plan? Turkey will defend its ‘Aleppo brothers,’ says PM Davutoglu

February 10, 2016

Syria invasion plan? Turkey will defend its ‘Aleppo brothers,’ says PM Davutoglu

Published time: 10 Feb, 2016 05:04

Source: Syria invasion plan? Turkey will defend its ‘Aleppo brothers,’ says PM Davutoglu — RT News


Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu pledged to return a “historical debt” to Turkey’s “Aleppo brothers” who helped defend the country in the early 20th century, just days after Russia warned of Ankara’s intentions to invade Syria as the rebels there falter.

“We will return our historic debt. At one time, our brothers from Aleppo defended our cities of Sanliurfa, Gaziantep, Kahramanmaras, now we will defend the heroic Aleppo. All of Turkey stands behind its defenders,” Davutoglu said at the meeting of the Party of Justice and Development parliamentary faction, which he heads.

READ MORE: Syria accuses Turkey of shelling northern Latakia province

Davutoglu was apparently referring to World War One and subsequent events in the Turkish War of Independence, seemingly glorifying the defense and retaking of Turkish cities from the Allied forces. Yet, he failed to mention that the Turks had been drawn into the war by Ottoman imperial ambitions. Turkey had entered the conflict by shelling the Russian port of Odessa from the sea. It then suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Russian troops in the war’s southern theater, before the Ottoman Empire was occupied and divided by the Allies. At the time, the three cities Davutoglu named saw thousands of Armenians and other minorities slaughtered by Turkish nationalists as part of the Armenian Genocide, which Ankara denies to this day.

Alarmingly, the statement comes less than a week after Russia’s Defense Ministry warned that Turkey was preparing a military invasion of Syria and is trying to conceal illegal activity on its Syrian border.

Read more

© Umit Bektas

“We have significant evidence to suspect Turkey is in the midst of intense preparations for a military invasion into Syria’s sovereign territory,” Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov told reporters in Moscow.

Konashenkov also stated that Turkey had canceled an agreed upon Russian observation flight that had been scheduled over its territory because of its illicit activities. “So if someone in Ankara thinks that the cancelation of the flight by the Russian observers will enable hiding something, then they’re unprofessional.”

Moreover, Konashenkov pointed out that Turkey has already been supplying terrorists in the Syrian cities of Idlib and Aleppo with manpower and weaponry.

The spokesman showed the media a photo of the Reyhanli checkpoint, saying that “through this very border crossing – mainly at nighttime – the militants, who seized the city of Aleppo and Idlib in northwestern Syria, are being supplied with arms and fighters from Turkish territory.”

The alarming new developments come as jihadi forces fighting President Bashar Assad’s army in northern Syria are suffering losses and retreating to the Turkish border.

Moscow had provided the international community earlier with video evidence that Turkish artillery had fired on populated Syrian areas in the north of Latakia Province. 

READ MORE: Turkey shuts off YouTube after ‘Syria invasion plan’ leak

Meanwhile, Turkey has denied any plans to invade Syria. “Turkey doesn’t have any plans or intentions to begin a military campaign or ground operations on Syrian territory,” Reuters cited a senior Turkish government official as saying.

This is not the first time alleged plans by Turkey to invade Syria have been reported. In 2014, Turkey shut off access to YouTube after an explosive leak of audiotapes revealed that its ministers had been discussing how to stage a provocation that could justify a military intervention in Syria.

In one of the leaked recordings, a top government official mentions how an attack on the tomb of Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of the Ottoman Empire’s founder, could do the trick. The monument is located in the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL)-embattled Syrian province of Raqqa, which is just over 30 kilometers from the Kurdish border town of Kobane and 1.5 hours’ drive from Aleppo.

US-Turkish rift over Syria plans?

Allegations that Ankara is planning an invasion of Syria come amid what would appear to be growing disconnect between Turkey and the US over their respective ambitions for the region. Notably, Turkey considers the US-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria to be terrorists akin to the Kurdish rebels fighting in eastern Turkey, and has recently been sending diplomatic signals to Washington that it is unhappy with America’s support of Kurds.

“We don’t recognize the PYD [Kurdish Democratic Union Party] as a terrorist organization, we recognize the Turks do,” US State Department spokesperson John Kirby said at a briefing.

Turkey summoned the US ambassador in Ankara after Washington announced that it does not consider Kurdish fighters in Syria to be terrorists. The Kurds, however, are not the only issue where Ankara’s ambitions appear to clash with the desires of the White House, and this includes a possible unilateral military intervention in Syria.

Read more

© Alaa Al-Faqir

At a press briefing, the US State Department chose not to reveal what was discussed at the ambassador’s meeting, but when RT’s Gayane Chichakyan pressed Kirby with a question regarding Davutoglu’s statement on “defending Aleppo,” here is the vague response she received:

“You should talk to the Turks about what they are implying or inferring or suggesting in that statement,” Kirby said. “We continue to believe two things. One, there isn’t going to be a military solution to this conflict. The second thing, we do look for Turkey’s assistance on the military front when it comes to fighting Daesh [IS].”

Kurdish fighters have been known to closely coordinate their actions with US forces in the fight against IS in both Iraq and Syria.

While this is far from the first time in the civil war that Turkey seems to be threatening Syria with an incursion, Middle East specialist Ali Rizk warns that Ankara has been behaving “irrationally” and anything can be expected.

“Turkey very much wants to achieve a goal … they have dreams and aspirations about the Ottoman Empire. Those dreams are very much linked to what happens in Syria. Particularly, the northern city of Aleppo, which is considered to be, by the Turkish leaders, part of the former Ottoman Empire … It’s always possible that you might see illogical or otherwise irrational policies being resorted to, be it a ground invasion or be it any military intervention,” Rizk told RT.

Islamist militants in Aleppo, Syria, got reinforcements from Turkey

January 21, 2016

Islamist militants in Aleppo, Syria, got reinforcements from Turkey – Russian Foreign Ministry

Published time: 21 Jan, 2016 12:25 Edited time: 21 Jan, 2016 13:14

Source: Islamist militants in Aleppo, Syria, got reinforcements from Turkey – Russian Foreign Ministry — RT News

© Hosam Katan


Terrorists have increased their activities ahead of the next week’s inter-Syrian talks, with insurgents in the Syrian province of Aleppo receiving reinforcements from Turkey, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said.

The much-anticipated talks between the Syrian government and different opposition groups are scheduled to take place in the Swiss city of Geneva on January 25.

“Unfortunately, in recent days, it’s especially noticeable that ahead of the planned start of the inter-Syrian negotiations in Geneva the activities of terrorist groups have intensified. Obviously, they’re trying to turn the tide in their favor on the battlefield,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said during a briefing in Moscow.

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Al-Qadam district south of Damascus © RT Arabic

According to Zakharova, Attempts to launch counter-attacks against the government forces were performed by Al-Nusra Front and Ahrar ash-Sham groups, which “got serious reinforcements from Turkey.”

The increased activity of the terrorists was witnessed in several suburbs of Damascus, Homs and Idlib provinces of Syria, she added.

Russia will continue providing humanitarian assistance to the civilian population in Syria, Zakharova stressed.

She reiterated that Russia’s Emergencies Ministry has performed 30 flights “not only to Syria, but also to Lebanon and Jordan” in January, delivering 600 tons of food and essentials for those affected by the conflict.

Besides humanitarian assistance, “Russia has also been involved in evacuation of citizens who want to leave dangerous areas,” she added.

Zakharova said that Moscow was “surprised” by recent comments from Washington, in which “representatives of the US State Department said that they don’t see Russia’s efforts in regard to providing humanitarian aid to Syria.”

“This is very strange, especially since the State Department allegedly sees everything, including Russian tanks that are being flown in or crawling into the territory of other states, but there’s no humanitarian aid in sight,” she said.

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov before their meeting on Syria, in Zurich, Switzerland, January 20, 2016. © Jacquelyn Martin

Zakharova said that Russia is concerned over Ankara’s increased military incursions into Syria, adding that “it cannot be ruled out that… fortifications [built by Turkey] along the Syrian-Turkish border may be used by militant groups as strongholds.

“While all parties involved pin their hopes on the start of a meaningful and… inclusive dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition, external forces continue to help militants in Syria, including terrorist groups, providing them with arms and ammunition,” she stressed.

According to the spokeswoman, the Syrian government has sent an official appeal to UN secretary-general and chairman of the UN Security Council over “repeated incursions of Turkish troops into Syrian border areas.”

Since March 2011, Syria has been engulfed in a bloody civil war, in which over 250,000 lives were lost, according to UN estimates.

During those years, the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad battled various opposition and terror groups, including Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) and Al-Nusra Front.

Erdogan Pushing Kurds and Russians Into Each Other’s Arms

October 14, 2015

Erdogan Pushing Kurds and Russians Into Each Other’s Arms Attacking both the Kurds and Assad turns out not to be a successful policy for Turkey

Source: Erdogan Pushing Kurds and Russians Into Each Other’s Arms

This article originally appeared in German Economic News. Translated from the German by Paul Dunne

The Kurds in Syria have indicated that they are willing to co-operate with Russia.  This would be a setback for Turkish President Erdogan, who wants to defeat the PKK.  However, in the USA support is growing for working together with Russia, because the US fight against IS is turning out to be harder than thought.

At present the Syrian army still controls a third of Aleppo.  The city is linked to the rest of the areas controlled by the government by a narrow road.  This route is under danger of being cut by Al-Qaida or IS.  The Assad regime has therefore been forced to co-operate with Kurdish fighters of the YPG, the Syrian wing of the PKK.  The Kurds on the other hand want to build a corridor between the cantons Afrin and Kobane and the Kurdish quarter of Aleppo, according to a report from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank.  The author of the report, Fabrice Balanche of Lyon University, recommends therefore that the US government should co-operate with the Russians, in order not to lose the YPG as an ally.
The Syrian Kurd leader Salih Muslim said on 1st October in an interview with “al-Monitor” that the Syrian Kurds are interested in an alliance with Russia and Syria.  Muslim also said that he himself was ready to fight not just for the Kurds, but with anyone willing to fight against IS.  On the other hand, Turkey fears that a new Kurdish region will emerge along its southern border, which could lead to destabilisation within Turkey.  Indeed, the Syrian Kurdish leader fears that Turkey may intervene.  Russia has promised the Damascus government to oppose any Turkish intervention in Syria.  At the end of the day, the Kurdish regions of Syria remain part of Syria.
The battle for Aleppo seems to be harder for the Russians than they thought.  The FT cites Syrian groups and anonymous militants as claiming that the IS overran the northern part of Aleppo on Thursday and gained significant ground.  This has not been confirmed.  Nevertheless the fact that the official Russian media have been silent about this up until now, indicates that the operations in Syria are not going so smoothly as planned.
Fabrice Balanche advised the US government not to hope that Syria will become a new Afghanistan for Putin.  The Americans ought rather to adjust to the new situation and make sure that they have a say in the new order in the Middle Eat.  This strategy is also supported by major players in the US government.