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Coordination between Kurdish militias and Syrian government forces to cope with new Turkish military operation

Ankara-friendly groups in Syria are continuing their preparations to support Turkish troops in the incursion. SDF denounces recent shelling that has claimed two lives
AFP/BAKR ALKASEM  -  El presidente de Turquía, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, renovó el 1 de junio las amenazas de una ofensiva militar en el norte de Siria, que, según dijo, tendría como objetivo a los "terroristas" kurdos

AFP/BAKR ALKASEM  -   Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on 1 June renewed threats of a military offensive in northern Syria, which he said would target Kurdish "terrorists".

The Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad and Kurdish militias in the north of the country have agreed to establish a joint defence plan in the face of Turkish threats of a new military operation in northern Syria. In late May, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced an incursion into the area with the aim of creating 30-kilometre safe zones to "combat terrorist threats in these regions".

Since 2016, Ankara has launched several operations in the region - Euphrates Shield (2016), Olive Branch (2018) and Spring Shield (2020) - aimed at defeating Kurdish military groups such as the People's Protection Units (YPG) or the Women's Protection Units (YPJ) linked to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), considered terrorist organisations by Turkey.

AFP/OMAR HAJ KADOUR  -   Soldados turcos están de pie ante la gente que se manifiesta mientras aseguran un tramo de la autopista M4, que une las provincias sirias septentrionales de Alepo y Latakia, Siria
AFP/OMAR HAJ KADOUR - Since 2016, Ankara has launched several operations in northern Syria.

Nouri Mahmoud, spokesman for the YPG, a US-allied militia, said they are "working with Syrian officials to develop a defence plan to deal with any Turkish aggression", reports Asharq Al-Awsat. According to Mahmoud, there have been "positive developments".

The spokesman also assured that they are in "constant contact" with the international coalition against Daesh and Russia. "We expect them to play an effective role in preserving stability and protecting civilians in northeastern Syria," Mahmoud added.

​  AFP/DELIL SOULEIMAN - Un vehículo blindado estadounidense pasa por delante de una valla publicitaria de las Unidades de Protección de las Mujeres (YPJ) kurdas sirias, en la ciudad nororiental siria de Qahtaniyah, en la frontera con Turquía, el 31 de octubre de 2019  ​
AFP/ GIUSEPPE CACACE - Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters show the victory sign next to their flag displayed on a rooftop in Baghouz, Deir Ezzor.

Farhad Shami, head of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) media centre, referred to the dialogue with Damascus as a "military agreement to repel any possible Turkish invasion". In remarks reported by the Arabic newspaper, Shami said 550 government troops arrived earlier this week in SDF-held regions, including Ain Issa, north of Raqqa. "The troops will fight alongside the SDF if Turkey continues its threat to invade the area," Shami added.

Near this town, Sharmi has denounced a brutal bombardment by pro-Turkish forces that has claimed the lives of two civilians. "The Turkish occupation and its mercenaries are deliberately and almost daily attacking areas backed by a ceasefire agreement to empty their population," Sharmi wrote on Twitter.

PHOTO/AP - Miembros de las Fuerzas Democráticas Sirias son fotografiados en la ciudad de Hasakeh, en el norte de Siria, el 24 de enero de 2022
PHOTO/AP - Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces in the northern Syrian town of Hasakeh on 24 January 2022.

The Syrian army, meanwhile, is reinforcing its military positions in the face of a possible Turkish incursion. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has reported the arrival of dozens of heavy weapons, tanks and a military convoy of more than 50 vehicles in northern areas of the country, such as Manbiy.

Last June, the SDF announced that it would coordinate with Syrian government forces to prevent any Turkish invasion and protect the territory. There have even been suggestions of possible coordination between Iranian-backed Kurdish and Shia militias

​  AFP/BAKR ALKASEM - Combatientes sirios respaldados por Turquía se reúnen en sus cuarteles en la ciudad de al-Bab, en la provincia de Alepo, antes de dirigirse a Manbij, en el norte de Siria, el 1 de junio de 2022  ​
​AFP/BAKR ALKASEM - Turkish-backed Syrian fighters gather at their barracks in the town of al-Bab in Aleppo province before heading to Manbij in northern Syria on 1 June 2022.

As a senior SDF military source revealed to Al Monitor's Mohammed Hardan, 'Iran is seeking to protect the Shia-majority towns of Nubl and Al-Zahraa, which are located near areas controlled by the Turkish-backed opposition'. These towns would be at risk if Turkish troops take control of new areas after Ankara launches its military operation.

"The YPG are forced to cooperate with Damascus and its allies, whether Iran, Russia or Hezbollah. They all believe that a Turkish incursion could become permanent, threatening Syria's territorial integrity and the ethnic cleansing of the Kurds," Joshua Landis, an expert on the Middle East and Syria, tells Al-Monitor. Landis also stresses that the Kurds in northern Syria prefer the Damascus government to Ankara. "Assad cannot rule northern Syria without the Kurds and the Kurds cannot protect themselves without working with Damascus," he adds. 

AFP/BAKR ALKASEM  -   Combatientes apoyados por Turquía en Siria
AFP/BAKR ALKASEM - Turkish-backed fighters in Syria

As the different Syrian factions coordinate ahead of the impending Turkish military operation, Ankara-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) forces are continuing their preparations to support Turkish troops "against terrorist groups in northern Syria", reports Turkey's pro-government Daily Sabah newspaper. "There are thousands of fighters ready to join the Turkish army," Abdul Salam Abdul Razak, a Syrian opposition commander, told Reuters.