CEYLANPINAR, Turkey, Oct 15, (Agencies): Russia moved to fill the void left by the United States in northern Syria, deploying troops Tuesday to keep apart advancing Syrian government and Turkish forces. At the same time, tensions grew within NATO as Turkey defied growing condemnation from its Western allies of its invasion across the border.
Now in its seventh day, Turkey’s offensive against the Kurds has upended alliances and is redrawing the map of northern Syria for yet another time in Syria’s 8-year-old war.
US rival Russia was quickly moving to entrench its de facto power broker role after President Donald Trump ordered the pullout of American forces in northeast Syria.
The American move effectively abandoned the Kurdish fighters allied with the US and opened the door for the Turkish invasion aimed at crushing them. Desperate for a new protector, the Kurdish administration struck a deal with the Russian-backed government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose forces began on Sunday deploying in Kurdish-administered areas to shield them against Turkey.
A video posted online by Russian journalists travelling with the soldiers showed what appeared to be an abandoned outpost where American troops had been stationed earlier. Syrian troops waved flags in the city streets. Outside Manbij, Russian troops began patrolling front lines between Turkish and Syrian army positions to keep them separated, Russia’s Defense Ministry said. “No one is interested” in potential fighting between Syrian government troops and Turkish forces, Russia’s envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev told Russian state news agencies.
Russia “is not going to allow it,” he said. Erdogan defended Turkey’s offensive in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, calling on the international community to support Turkey’s effort to create what it calls a resettlement “safe zone” for refugees in northeast Syria, or “begin admitting refugees.” “Turkey reached its limit,” Erdogan wrote in reference to 3.6 million Syrian refugees in his country. He said Turkey’s warnings that it would not be able to stop refugee floods into the West without international support “fell on deaf ears.” Turkey invaded northern Syria aiming to create a zone of control the entire length of the border and drive out the Kurdish fighters, which it considers terrorists because of their links to Kurdish insurgents within Turkey.