Damascus says would welcome Kurds back into fold

DAMASCUS: Damascus is ready to welcome Syria‘s Kurds back into the fold after Washington left them to face Turkish military threats alone, a senior official said in comments published Tuesday.

Ankara has threatened an offensive in Syria against Kurdish militias it considers terrorists and US forces on Monday pulled back from Turkish border areas, opening the way for an invasion President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said could come at any moment.

“We will defend all Syrian territory, and we will not accept any occupation of Syrian land,” Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad told the pro-government Al-Watan newspaper.

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The official said Kurdish groups have been “tossed aside” by Washington, after US President Donald Trump on Monday gave Turkey a green light to press ahead with its planned military operation.  

“The nation welcomes all its children and Damascus will solve all problems in Syria in a positive manner, away from violence,” Mekdad said, vowing to take back all  Syrian territory. 

“We advise those who have gone astray to return to the nation, because the nation is their final destiny,” he added, encouraging Syria‘s Kurds to reconcile with the regime.

In the early part of the eight-year-old civil war in Syria, the Kurds consolidated control over the northeast and set up their own autonomous institutions.

When the Islamic State group swept across the region in 2014, they mounted a fierce defence of their heartland and became the US-led coalition’s main military partner on the ground.

Mekdad said that Kurdish militias in Syria were being “played” by Washington. 

Damascus rejects Kurdish self-rule and wants central government institutions restored in Kurdish-held areas. 

The Kurds want protection from the long-threatened Turkish offensive.

Weakened by Washington’s decision to withdraw most of its troops following the defeat of the last vestige of IS’s “caliphate” in March, the Kurdish-led alliance has opened talks with Damascus.

But negotiations have yet to bear fruit. 

Ankara views Kurdish militias in Syria as a “terrorist” offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought a bloody insurgency inside Turkey for the past 35 years.

Turkey has already carried out two cross-border offensives into Syria, including one in 2018 that saw it and allied Syria rebels overrun the majority Kurdish Afrin enclave in the northwest.

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