Erdogan says Turkey requested Russian help with Syria ground invasion

President asked Putin to 'maybe take steps together' in Kurdish region

The funeral of a Kurdish People's Protection Unit (YPG)  fight in northern Syria on December 7. AFP
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he asked for Russia's help with a ground invasion of northern Syria.

Ankara requested Russian President Vladimir Putin's support in “making mutual decisions and maybe acting to take steps together” in the north, he said on Tuesday.

Russia, a staunch ally of Damascus, also has friendly relations with Ankara and has already urged Mr Erdogan not to invade.

Turkey launched new aerial attacks on the north-east last month after blaming the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) for an Istanbul bombing which killed six people, including two children.

Ankara claims the SDF is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK and is a threat to Turkey's national security, which the SDF denies.

On Sunday, Mr Erdogan called on Mr Putin to discuss creating a “buffer zone” in the north and said it could play a role in “clearing” Kurdish militants from the area, criticising Moscow for not adhering to a 2019 agreement to do so.

Mr Erdogan said the bombings were “just the beginning” and Ankara would put troops on the ground as soon as possible.

It has launched three operations against the Kurds in northern Syria since 2016 and seized control of a swathe of the north-east in a 2019 operation which displaced 300,000 people.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said bombings in Syria were 'just the beginning'. AFP

Turkey and its Syrian proxies also control Afrin, near Aleppo.

The head of Russia's armed forces in Syria met with Kurdish counterparts in November, where the SDF urged Moscow to take action to avoid a ground incursion.

Moscow's peace negotiations envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, told state-run TASS that Russia was “doing everything possible” to avoid further violence in the area.

The US and Germany have also warned Turkey against a ground invasion.

Also on Tuesday, the US confirmed it has fully resumed patrols with the Kurdish-led forces in north-east Syria after Turkish aerial assaults halted operations last month.

The Pentagon said it has fully restarted patrols with the SDF, a close ally in the fight against ISIS. It works closely with the international coalition to oust remnants of the terror group, which are still present in Syria and neighbouring Iraq.

The SDF stopped all counter-terror operations in late November after a week of relentless Turkish attacks. It accused Turkey of bombing a camp holding thousands of ISIS-linked families, allowing some to escape.

SDF officials previously confirmed joint patrols and training drills had resumed with coalition and international partners.

Turkish bombing has killed several senior SDF commanders and US-trained forces, a former coalition spokesman told The National at the time.

Updated: December 14, 2022, 6:08 AM