A top Russian security official says the US has set up around 20 military bases in areas controlled by Kurdish militants it supports in northern Syria, adding that Washington “provoked” Turkey into launching an offensive in those regions by providing the Kurds with advanced weapons.
Alexander Venediktov, an official from Russia’s Security Council, said Thursday that the establishment of peace in war-torn Syria is impeded by external interferences, particularly American meddling, in the conflict, according to Russian media.
“The return of peace and stability to Syria is hampered by continued external interference in the Syrian crisis. For example, in the territory controlled by the people’s self-defense units of Kurdistan, some 20 US military bases have been created,” Venediktov said.
Venediktov also said that Washington provoked Ankara into launching a military offensive on Syria’s Afrin by “boosting” the Kurdish militants with the most advanced weapons.
“The Kurds are being boosted with advanced weaponry. The deliveries of modern weapons and encouragement of separatist sentiments among the Kurds have in fact provoked Turkey into carrying out the military operation in Syria’s northern Afrin region,” the Russian official said.
Turkey launched the so-called Operation Olive Branch in Afrin on January 20 in a bid to eliminate the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara views as a terror organization and the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The offensive came after the US said it would set up a 30,000-strong militant border force at Turkish doorstep.
American troops have no presence in and around Afrin but they are present in Manbij and east of the Euphrates, where they have purportedly assisted the YPG in the fight against the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.
The Syrian government has condemned both the “Turkish aggression” and the “illegitimate” US presence in Syria, saying they violate international law and impede the political solution and victory over terrorism.
While Turkey is coming under mounting pressure over reports of rising civilian casualties, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced plans to expand the offensive to Manbij where Turkish troops are likely to face US-led forces.
Earlier in February, Erdogan rejected reports that civilians were being targeted in Turkey’s operation in Syria, saying Turkey was on a mission to eradicate terrorism, which was key to preventing the re-emergence of colonialism, in another apparent dig at the US.
Eastern Ghouta in crisis
Separately, the Russian military said Thursday that civilians in Syria’s militant-held Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta had made numerous requests to be evacuated, the TASS news agency quoted Russian Major-General Vladimir Zolotukhin as saying to reporters in Damascus.
According to Zolotukhin, militants were continuing to shell the evacuation corridor from Eastern Ghouta despite the implementation of a humanitarian pause to help the residents flee the area.
Syrian government forces, helped by the Russian military, had created the necessary conditions for civilians to leave the area via the corridor in the settlement of Vafidin after a daily five-hour ceasefire went into effect in the militant-held area on Tuesday.
The ceasefire came three days after the UN Security Council unanimously voted in favor of a resolution demanding a 30-day truce in Syria “without delay” to allow aid access and medical evacuations.
Eastern Ghouta, a besieged area on the outskirts of Damascus which is home to some 400,000 people, has witnessed deadly violence over the past few days, with foreign-sponsored terrorists launching mortar attacks on the Syrian capital in the face of an imminent humiliating defeat.
Western powers, however, blame the Syrian government and Russia for the crisis.