ANKARA: A claim that Kurdish fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are willing to join the Syrian army once the country’s political crisis is settled is likely to bring a muted response from Turkey, according to observers. Russia’s RIA news agency on Thursday cited an SDF official saying that Kurdish troops have withdrawn from a 30-km secure zone established by Turkey on its border with Syria.
Kurds in the SDF group are ready to discuss joining the Syrian army after a solution is found to the country’s political crisis, the official was quoted as saying.
The announcement means all eyes are now on Ankara, which considers the Kurdish YPG militia, the backbone of the SDF, to be a terror group linked to PKK militants who have been fighting the Turkish state for more than three decades.
Following a tweet by US President Donald Trump saying he had “really enjoyed” talking to Mazloum Abdi, head of the SDF, Turkey urged the US to “hand over” the Kurdish commander, saying he was wanted by Interpol.
The SDF on Thursday accused Turkey of carrying out a large-scale military offensive targeting three villages in northeast Syria despite the cease-fire. However, the Kremlin insisted that a peace plan agreed by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian leader Vladimir Putin was being fully implemented.
On the same day, five Turkish soldiers were wounded in a YPG attack while on patrol in the border town of Ras Al-Ain.
Navvar Saban, a military analyst at the Omran Center for Strategic Studies in Istanbul, believes the Syrian regime is unlikely to accept SDF fighters as part of its army.
“The Russians lack manpower in Syria. There is a possibility they will use SDF forces in Idlib, but not near the Turks because they don’t want to provoke Ankara,” he told Arab News.
“But at the end, it will be the Russians and not the regime who decide the status of the SDF,” he said.
Russia, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, has emerged as the leading geopolitical player in Syria following the abrupt withdrawal of US troops.
Kerim Has, a Moscow-based expert on Russia-Turkey relations, said that the Kremlin is pushing the SDF to cut all ties with the US and work toward greater harmony between Moscow and Damascus.
“However, the integration of SDF into the Syrian army is intertwined with many other processes and will definitely take some time. It cannot happen in 24 hours or even a week,” he said.
Has said that Turkey would find it difficult to prevent the “dissolution of the SDF in the Syrian army under Russian supervision.”
“After Assad regains legitimacy in the region and around the world, relations between the Kurds and Damascus will be a domestic issue,” he said.
“Ankara will not be a factor here.”
Has said the deal struck between Russia and Turkey in Sochi on Tuesday “paves the way for a fresh start in Turkey-Syria relations.”
“It will be hard for Ankara to call the Syrian army a ‘terror group’ while cooperating with Moscow and patrolling with Russian troops on territory controlled by Assad regime forces.
“Ankara will keep up its rhetoric, but its reaction on the ground will be limited,” he said.