TURKEY’S intelligence agency and a major Iraqi Kurdish party are believed to have held joint talks with Syrian officials on Tuesday in an attempt to obstruct a deal between Damascus and Syria’s Kurds.
It is understood that officials from Turkey’s National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) and Iraq’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) rushed to the Syrian capital on the orders of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after news broke of discussions between the Syrian government and the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) last week.
The meeting with the SDC, the political wing of the largely Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), was held at the instigation of the Syrian government.
The SDC agreed to work with President Bashar al-Assad’s administration towards a “democratic, decentralised Syria,” marking a significant development in a potential road map for the country’s future.
Mr Assad’s military has retaken control of large parts of Syria and he has vowed that all foreign forces will leave the country, either voluntarily or by force. He recently said the SDF should be prepared to negotiate or fight, paving the way for talks.
However, the shift towards reconciliation has alarmed Turkey, which views the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the largest component of the SDF, as a terrorist organisation.
Ankara fears that collaboration between the Syrian Kurds and Mr Assad’s government may threaten its current military operation in the northern canton of Afrin, which Turkish troops invaded in January this year.
Sources claimed that the MIT-KDP delegation offered the Syrian government a consulate in the Iraqi Kurdish city of Irbil in return for it scrapping the talks with the SDC.
Relations between Syria and Turkey are strained, with Damascus’s envoy to the United Nations, Bashar Jaafari, warning at the Astana talks on Tuesday that Ankara was failing to meet its obligations over the de-escalation zone in Idlib.
Syria warned that it would retake Idlib by force and vowed to expel the Turkish troops, whom Mr Jaafari accused of operating as an occupying force in Afrin in violation of Syrian sovereignty.
“Turkey introduced its currency, Turkish lira, in regions that are not controlled by Damascus,” he said.
Ankara has 12 military bases in Idlib and Mr Erdogan has warned that he will not tolerate attacks by Syrian government forces on jihadist groups in the region.
Any clashes could create a potential flashpoint between Turkey and Russia, which backs Mr Assad’s forces in Syria’s civil war.
The talks between the Syrian government and the SDF are set to continue.