The Kremlin said on Oct. 23 that the United States had betrayed and abandoned the Syrian Kurds and advised them to withdraw from the Syrian border as per a deal between Moscow and Ankara or be mauled by the Turkish army.
The comments by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov to Russian news agencies followed a deal agreed on Oct. 22 between Russia and Turkey that will see Syrian and Russian forces deploy to northeast Syria to remove Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and their weapons from the border with Turkey.
Peskov, who was reported to be reacting to comments by U.S. President Donald Trump’s special envoy for Syria James Jeffrey, complained that it appeared that the United States was encouraging the YPG to stay close to the Syrian border and fight the Turkish army.
“The United States has been the Kurds’ closest ally in recent years. [But] in the end, it abandoned the Kurds and, in essence, betrayed them,” Peskov was cited as saying, referring to a former alliance between the YPG and Washington in the fight against ISIS.
“Now they [the Americans] prefer to leave the Kurds at the border [with Turkey] and almost force them to fight the Turks,” he added.
If the YPG did not withdraw as per the deal between Moscow and Ankara, Peskov said that Syrian borders guards and Russian military police would have to withdraw, leaving the Kurds to be dealt with by the Turkish army.
Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria on Oct. 9 in order to clear its border from YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and to create a safe zone for the return of over one million Syrian refugees.
Ankara and Washington reached a deal on Oct. 22, which was hailed as “momentous” by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
According to the agreement, Russian military police and Syrian border guards will enter the Syrian side of the Turkish-Syrian border, outside the area of Operation Peace Spring, to “facilitate the removal” of YPG elements and their weapons to the depth of 30 kilometers from the Turkish-Syrian border, which should be finalized in 150 hours starting from 12 p.m. of Oct. 23.
Following the end of the aforementioned 150 hours, joint Russian-Turkish patrols will start in the west and the east of the area of Operation Peace Spring with a depth of 10 kilometers, except Qamishli city.
The memorandum also said that all YPG elements and their weapons “will be removed” from Manbij and Tal Rifat.
Another Russian official to speak following the agreement was Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who said that Moscow estimated that up to 500 people, including Islamist militants, had escaped from captivity in northern Syria after their guards left their posts.
He said measures were being taken to recapture them.
Russia is the major ally of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Turkey has been calling on Assad to step down since the beginning of the war in 2011.
Putin calls Assad
Following the agreement reached in Sochi, Putin has explained to Assad by phone the results of his talks with Erdoğan, the Kremlin said on Oct. 22.
Putin highlighted in the phone call with Assad that restoring Syria’s territorial integrity was the main task.
Assad thanked Putin and “expressed his full support for the results of the work, as well as the readiness of the Syrian border guards, together with the Russian military police, to reach the Syrian-Turkish border,” the Kremlin said.
In the phone call, Assad also reassured Putin his complete refusal of any invasion of Syrian land under any pretext, adding that Syria will continue to fight terrorism on Syrian land by all legitimate means, a statement released from the Syrian Presidency said.
Iran welcomes deal
Iran, another major Assad ally, welcomes any steps that bring security to Syria, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Oct. 23, adding that the Sochi agreement was a positive step towards securing stability in the country.
“Iran welcomes any steps that will bring security and calm to Syria and to secure the country’s integrity,” Mousavi said.
“The agreement between Russia and Turkey is a positive step. We hope this agreement will remove Turkey’s concerns and will bring peace and security to Syria.”