Astana, Nov 22 (EFE).- Russia on Tuesday urged Turkey to exercise restraint after Ankara launched early Sunday morning a series of aerial bombardments in northern Syria and Iraq without seeking the approval of either Moscow or Washington and warned that the operation could continue.
“We will call on our Turkish colleagues to a certain restraint to avoid an escalation of tension not only in the northern and northeastern regions, but throughout the territory of Syria,” Russia’s special envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, told the media before the start of the 19th meeting of the guarantor nations of the Syrian ceasefire, also known as the Astana process, in the Kazakh capital.
“We urge Turkey to try to find a solution to the Kurdish problem,” he said.
He stressed that the Turkish armed forces carried out a series of attacks on the territory of Syria and Iraq and that Ankara’s justification is to carry out an anti-terrorist operation following the recent high-profile terrorist attack in Istanbul.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced repeatedly before the summer his intention to launch a new military ground operation in Syria to extend Turkish military rule over an entire 30-kilometer wide strip along the Turkish border.
Part of this area is under control of Syria’s Kurdish militias, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), in alliance with regular Damascus regime forces and Russian units.
Ankara attributes to the YPG the terrorist attack perpetrated last November 13 in Istanbul that killed six, claiming that the material perpetrator was trained in the Kurdish Syrian city of Kobani, although the militia has rejected any involvement.
“We have an agreement with the Russians since (the Sochi conference) in 2019. They have the responsibility to clear the area of terrorists. Unfortunately they have not done so, no matter how much we have reminded them,” Erdogan said on Monday.
In Astana, Lavrentiev also again denounced the US military presence in Syria as illegal.
“We believe that the illegal presence of the US military in Syria is a major factor in the unstable situation. The withdrawal of the US military contingent not only from northeastern Syria, but also from the 55-kilometer zone around (the Syrian base) Al Tanf would help stabilize and calm the situation,” he said.
“We will talk to our Turkish and Iranian counterparts (the other two guarantors of the ceasefire in Syria) about the decision to withdraw the U.S. military contingent. It is clear that this is a difficult task, but we believe it is feasible,” the Russian said.
Lavrentiev also said that the work of the Constitutional Committee for Syria is stalled because the guarantor countries cannot decide on the venue of the meetings, in the face of Russian insistence that Geneva should no longer host them.
Moscow argues that Switzerland has lost all its neutrality by joining sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine.
“Today, with Geir Pedersen, we will consider this issue in detail. There are several different options, but we have been unable to agree. We hope to decide before the end of the year,” Lavrentiev said.
He explained that Russia offered to hold the Syrian committee meetings in Astana, but this option did not suit Pedersen, who “is satisfied exclusively with Geneva,” according to the Russian envoy.
“But I would like to point out that the work of the three parts of the constitutional committee – government, opposition and civil society continues at the working level,” he stressed. EFE