DAMASCUS – The Syrian army has sent troops to “confront the Turkish aggression” in the north of the country where Ankara is battling Kurdish-led forces, the state news agency SANA said Sunday.
“Syrian … army units move north to confront Turkish aggression on Syrian territory,” SANA said, without giving further details.
The report came as a Kurdish official said on condition of anonymity that “negotiations” were underway between the Kurds and the Damascus government.
“All the options are being examined in the face of the Turkish offensive,” the Kurdish official said.
“The (Damascus) government must assume its responsibilities to confront the aggression.”
On Sunday Turkish forces and their proxies pushed deeper into Syria, on the fifth day of the offensive, as Washington announced it was withdrawing its 1,000 troops from the country’s north.
Fighting raged, but Turkish-backed forces made significant progress along the border, despite an international outcry over the operation which has left dozens of civilians and fighters dead and displaced tens of thousands.
Marginalized for decades, Syria’s minority Kurds carved out a de facto autonomous region across some 30 percent of the nation’s territory after the devastating war broke out in 2011.
After the Islamic State group swept across the region in 2014, the Kurd-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) mounted a fierce defence of their heartland and became the US-led coalition’s main partner on the ground.
At the end of 2018, as Ankara threatened to launch an operation against Kurds in Syria, the People’s Protection Units (YPG) which dominated the anti-jihadist coalition, urged the Syrian army to deploy around the northern city of Manbij and announced their withdrawal from there.
At the time the army deployed around Manbij, but did not enter the city.
Ankara considers the YPG “terrorists” linked to insurgents inside Turkey.