Russia says Turkey's proposed military operation in Syria is an unwise move

Moscow sends Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to talks in Ankara

Turkish-backed Syrian fighters take part in an exercise outside the city of Afrin in the rebel-held part of Aleppo province.  AFP
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Russia thinks a Turkish military operation in Syria would be unwise as it could destabilise the situation, the RIA news agency quoted Russia's Syria envoy Alexander Lavrentyev as saying on Wednesday.

Mr Lavrentyev said Moscow no longer considered Geneva a suitable venue for talks between Syrians, the TASS news agency reported.

He was in Nur-Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan, on Wednesday for talks with Turkey, Iran, and the Syrian government and rebels.

Turkey said it must act in Syria because Washington and Moscow broke promises to push the predominantly Kurdish group YPG 30 kilometres from the border after a 2019 offensive by Turkey and said attacks from YPG-controlled areas have increased.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said two weeks ago that Turkey would launch military operations in Syria to extend 30km deep safe zones along the border, aiming at the Tal Rifaat and Manbij regions and others further east.

Turkish-supported Syrian anti-government fighters in the town of Azaz in rebel-held northern Aleppo province head towards Kurdish-controlled town of Tal Rifaat. AFP

Russia, which warned at the weekend against military escalation in northern Syria, is sending Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for talks in Ankara on Wednesday.

The two countries have close ties and Ankara has sought to mediate talks over Russia's war in Ukraine. Their support for opposing sides in Syria may test President Vladimir Putin's relations with the only Nato member not to impose sanctions following the invasion.

The stakes are high for Mr Erdogan. Without at least tacit approval from Russia, President Bashar al Assad's powerful ally in the Syria conflict, a Turkish offensive would face an additional risk of casualties.

Russia and Turkey have checked each other's military ambitions at times during Syria's war, bringing them close to direct confrontation.

There have not yet been signs of a significant Turkish military build-up in the border region, but reports of rocket and artillery exchanges have become more frequent in the past two weeks.

Any Turkish operation would attack the YPG, a key part of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces that controls large parts of north Syria and is regarded by Washington as an important ally against ISIS.

Ankara regards the YPG as a terrorist group and extension of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party.

Updated: June 15, 2022, 9:54 AM