Beirut: The Syrian army deployed alongside Kurdish forces on the front line in northern Syria Wednesday but their newfound cooperation saw no let-up in the week-old Turkish invasion, a monitor said.
In a rare scene in Syria’s eight-year-old civil war, government troops and Kurdish fighters were “fighting together” against Turkey’s Syrian proxies northeast of the town of Ain Issa, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The Britain-based monitor reported “violent clashes” near the M4 highway - a key east-west artery that links the Kurdish heartland in the northeast with Syria’s second city Aleppo and the Mediterranean coast beyond.
Under the deal announced on Sunday after President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of US troops, government troops have returned to key Kurdish-held areas for the first time in years.
Syrian soldiers have been sent to Manbij, Tal Tamr, Ain Issa and Tabqa in their most significant deployment since the army started withdrawing from Kurdish-majority areas in 2012.
Two Syrian soldiers were killed near Ain Issa on Tuesday in shelling by Turkey’s Syrian proxies - mostly former rebels paid and equipped by Ankara, the Observatory said.
On Monday, artillery fire by the Syrian former rebels killed another soldier in the flashpoint city of Manbij, it added.
In the border town of Ras al-Ain, where Kurdish fighters have put up stiff resistance against Ankara’s incursion, battles raged on Wednesday following a night of heavy Turkish air strikes and artillery fire, the monitor said.
Since its launch on October 9, the Turkish offensive has killed dozens of civilians, mostly on the Kurdish side, and prompted at least 160,000 to flee their homes.
What is Russia doing about it?
Russia’s special envoy on Syria, Alexander Lavrentyev, said Turkish and Syrian officials were in contact to avoid clashes which “would simply be unacceptable”.
Russia said Syrian and Turkish military forces should work out how to cooperate in northern Syria based on the Adana accord, a 1998 security pact, the RIA news agency reported.
Moscow would be prepared to help with that cooperation, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in the southern Russian city of Sochi.
Dialogue between Damascus and Syria’s Kurds was meanwhile yielding concrete results, he added.
What is the Adana accord?
The Adana accord spelled out the terms under which Turkey could carry out cross-border security operations inside northern Syria. It also forced Damascus to stop harbouring members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), outlawed by Turkey and which had waged an armed insurgency against the Turkish state for decades.
What does Erdogan say?
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday firmly ruled out any negotiations with Kurdish militants in Syria as the United States pushed for a ceasefire.
“There are some leaders who are trying to mediate... There has never been any such thing in the history of the Turkish republic as the state sitting at the same table with a terror organisation,” Erdogan said in a speech to parliament.
In order to end Turkish offensive, Kurdish fighters were ordered to leave designated border zone in Syria by Wednesday night.
What is the UN doing?
United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen held talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem in Damascus on Wednesday, his spokeswoman said.
Pedersen was expected to raise Turkey’s week-old incursion in northeastern Syria, diplomats said.
His trip had been planned to discuss preparations for the first meeting of Syria’s Constitutional Committee, due to take place in Geneva on Oct. 30.
Where are Kurds fleeing to?
Some 500 Syrian Kurds have entered neighbouring Iraqi Kurdistan over the past four days fleeing a Turkish invasion now entering its second week, officials said on Wednesday.
The refugees were taken to camps in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, an official in the border province of Dohuk told AFP.
Is Turkey facing domestic opposition to the offensive?
Some.Turkish police have detained nearly 200 people over their social media posts against its military offensive in Syria since the operation began last week, state news agency Anadolu said Wednesday.
Of the 186 people held, 24 have been formally arrested, according to Anadolu.