The main international actors involved in the Syrian conflict are against a potential Turkish military operation in northern Syria, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Commander in Chief Mazloum Abdi said on Sunday in an interview with Al-Hurra TV channel.
Turkish forces have increased the pressure on the SDF and the Kurdish-led autonomous administrations governing North and East Syria in recent months, with frequent shelling and aerial attacks striking military targets and civilians alike.
At the same time, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has sought diplomatic support for a new military offensive against the administrations. But his calls have fallen on deaf ears, said Abdi.
US officials have assured the SDF they are against a new Turkish military operation, Abdi said, adding that US President Joe Biden had told Erdoğan of the United States’ opposition to a new offensive during their meeting in June’s NATO summit in Madrid
The SDF played a key role in the US-led coalition to defeat the Islamic State, losing thousands of soldiers in the process. Abdi said the SDF was still in close touch with its partners, and that their position had been greatly strengthened by the coalition’s support.
He added that a renewed Turkish offensive would strengthen Syrian rebel factions backed by Ankara since the beginning of the 11-year conflict.
“If Turkey occupies these areas in northern Syria, the Turkish-backed Syrian opposition factions and the mercenaries linked to the Syrian National Army (SNA) will grow stronger in the face of the Syrian regime,” he said.
As a result, he said, the Syrian government and their Russian backers also opposed Turkey’s operations, even though they sought to benefit from Turkey’s threats to regain control in these areas.
Abdi warned that any military action by Turkey would increase the humanitarian tragedy in the area and lead to demographic changes, while also impeding the SDF’s efforts to combat the Islamic State.
Ankara has justified its incursions in northern Syria by saying it was necessary to remove from its border militants linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which Turkey defines as a terrorist organisation.
But Abdi said this reasoning was an “excuse” used to cover Turkey’s true aim of implementing demographic change in the region by resettling some of the millions of Syrian refugees it hosts in predominantly Kurdish areas of northern Syria.
“Turkey wants to eliminate the Kurdish question in Syria. The rest of the accusations are just excuses,” Abdi said. “This means the original population will be displaced and others will be settled in their place.”
The SDF commander called on concerned countries to intervene to prevent this new operation, warning that the repercussions of a new Turkish invasion of northern Syria would be felt at local, regional and international levels.
Erdoğan has made multiple threats this year to order new military offensives in Syria to extend the 30-km deep “safe zones,” or occupied areas that Turkish forces carved out during previous operations.
On 23 May, the Turkish president signalled his desire to start another major military cross-border incursion into northern Syria, this time targeting the border town of Manbij and Tell Rifat, a town in the north of Aleppo governorate.
The plan has drawn criticism from Russia, Iran and the United States.