11 Oct 2019 16:38

Russian Foreign Ministry: Moscow ready to facilitate dialogue between Damascus and Kurds

MOSCOW. Oct 11 (Interfax) - Moscow has confirmed its readiness to facilitate a dialogue between the Syrian Government and the Kurds and also steps to normalize relations between countries in this region, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

"Moscow confirms its readiness to facilitate such dialogue as well as steps to normalize relations between countries of the region," the ministry said in comments published on its website on Friday.

"However, we are confident that peace and stability in this part of sovereign Syrian land can be ensured only through a productive and mutually respectful dialogue between the government and the Kurds who are an integral part of Syrian society," the ministry said.

Moscow "does not call into question the objective need to fight terrorists and ensure the security of Turkey as well as the security of all countries of the region from their attacks," the ministry said.

Western media said on Thursday, citing Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, that the Syrian authorities are not going to hold any talks with Kurdish forces because they "betrayed the country" and gave Turkey a pretext to violate the sovereignty of Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the start of Operation Peace Spring in Syria on October 9. Erdogan said that the objective of this operation is to crack down on Kurdish fighters and terrorists from the Islamic State group (banned in Russia) in Syria's northeast districts near the border with Turkey.

The operation, which is being conducted by the Turkish Armed Forces and the Ankara-backed Syrian National Army, aims to establish a militant-free zone in Syria, which will be 480 kilometers long and 32 kilometers wide and will stretch from the Euphrates River to the Iraqi border. Turkey considers Kurdish People's Defense Units [Yekineyen Parastina Gel] (YPG) fighters as terrorists due to their affiliation with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which Ankara has designated as a terrorist organization.

The Turkish Defense Ministry said at midday on Friday that Turkish forces had neutralized 342 militants during the operation. As a rule, the Turkish military uses the term "neutralize" in reference to fighters who have been killed or captured. The Defense Ministry reported on Friday morning that the first Turkish soldier had been killed during the operation. Another three Turkish servicemen were wounded.

The Anadolu news agency said on Thursday evening that the Turkish forces and the Syrian National Army had taken control of seven localities, mostly villages located near the town of Tell al-Abyad. For their part, Syrian media outlets close to Kurdish paramilitary units reported fierce clashes in the town of Ras al-Ain. The Turkish forces are using artillery against the Kurdish militia. Reconnaissance planes have also been seen in the area of fighting.