Cheers and posters of Assad greet Syrian militia fighters in Afrin

World Today

SYRIA-CONFLICT-TURKEY-KURDS-REGIME-AFRIN A picture taken on February 22, 2018 shows people waving the Syrian flag and portraits of President Bashar al-Assad and Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan as a convoy of pro-Syrian government fighters arrives in Syria’s northern region of Afrin. (AFP PHOTO / Ahmad Shafie BILAL)

As a deadly assault levels buildings in the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta, some residents in the country’s north are welcoming pro-government Syrian fighters with open arms. On Wednesday, more militia fighters arrived in Afrin to protect Kurdish fighters under assault by the Turkish military.

CGTN’s Michal Bardavid reports.
Follow Michal Bardavid on Twitter @michal_bardavid

Cheering and clapping greeted a new group of pro-government Syrian militias arrived in Afrin. The fighters came to support the Kurdish YPG’s “People’s Protection Units” from Turkish attacks that are part of Ankara’s “Olive Branch Operation.”

Though not part of the official Syrian military, they were welcomed with posters of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.

Across the border, however, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu signaled his country was ready to confront the militias if needed.

“For us, the country or power doesn’t make a difference,” Cavusoglu said. “Those who try to support terrorist organizations are equal to the YPG or PKK. We will act accordingly.”


A picture taken on February 22, 2018 shows a convoy of pro-Syrian government fighters arriving in Syria’s northern region of Afrin. (AFP PHOTO / Ahmad Shafie BILAL)

The Turkish government says it is carrying out “Operation Olive Branch” under the framework of international law and UN Security Council resolutions. Ankara has also emphasized several times that it respects Syria’s territorial integrity.

On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov suggested that actors in Syria should have an open dialogue with the Syrian government. Some analysts agree.

“A meeting with [Syrian President] Assad is a possibility,” according to retired Turkish army officer Ibrahim Pazan. “Nothing is impossible in politics. For the bloodshed to stop in Syria, this option could also be put on the table.”

Many analysts also say a security corridor is the only option for Turkey to protect itself. Pazan says it will be impossible to defend against strikes, including from mobile launched rockets, without a kilometers-wide safe zone.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Syrians gathered in front of the Russian consulate in Istanbul, protesting the devastating attacks on Eastern Ghouta. German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the Syrian government for the assault, while Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister said his country is worried about the human cost of the attacks.

The Kremlin, which has supported Syria throughout the conflict, is considering a UN proposed ceasefire, but only if it doesn’t cover ISIL, Nusra Front and other militant groups.

Doga Eralp discusses the latest developments in Syria

CGTN’s Mike Walter spoke with Doga Eralp, professor at the School of International Service at American University, about the latest escalation in the Syrian conflict.