“Groups aligned to the Syrian Army came to Afrin, but not in the quantity or capacity to stop the Turkish occupation,” YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud told Reuters. “The Syrian army must fulfil its duty ... to protect Syria’s borders.”
The YPG has called on the Syrian regime to send troops to the Afrin region in the northwest, and pro-Damascus militias arrived there late on Tuesday. Hundreds of those fighters have been deployed on front lines in Afrin battling Turkish forces, Mahmoud said.
But Assad did not send the army itself, a deployment that could have sparked a wider direct confrontation with the Syrian government if Turkey did not back down.
Ankara, a pro-Assad commander and Kurdish officials have all said recently that Russia intervened to stop Damascus sending the army to defend Afrin after reports of a deal with the Syrian Kurdish forces.
While Russia is Assad’s strongest ally in the war, it is also working with Turkey, which backs rebel factions, to negotiate a wider settlement to the conflict.
Yesterday, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said he believed there was no deal in place between the Syrian government and the YPG.
“We have information that they have not reached a deal,” Bozdag said in a televised interview.
In a separate area, a witness and a war-monitoring group said government forces moved into a Kurdish-held enclave in the north of the city of Aleppo on Thursday morning.
Assad has repeatedly said he wants to take back every inch of Syria, but the state has tolerated the Kurdish control over the Sheikh Maqsoud area and nearby neighborhoods in Aleppo.