ANKARA: Turkiye’s president again hinted at a possible new ground offensive in Syria against Kurdish militants on Tuesday, as Syrian forces denounced new airstrikes and Russia urged restraint and called on Ankara to avoid an escalation.
Russian presidential envoy in Syria Alexander Lavrentyev said that Turkiye should “show a certain restraint” in order to prevent an escalation in Syria, where tensions heightened over the weekend after Turkish airstrikes killed and wounded a number of Syrian soldiers.
Lavrentyev expressed hope that “it will be possible to convince our Turkish partners to refrain from excessive use of force on Syrian territory.”
Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces later said that fresh Turkish airstrikes on Tuesday struck a base that the group shares with the US-led coalition in the fight against Daesh.
The base is located just outside of the town of Qamishli, about 50 km from the Turkish border. Two SDF fighters were killed and three were wounded, the group said.
Turkiye carried out airstrikes on suspected Kurdish militant targets in northern Syria and Iraq over the weekend, in retaliation for a deadly Nov. 13 bombing in Istanbul that Ankara blames on the militant groups. The groups have denied involvement in the bombing.
The airstrikes also hit several Syrian army positions in three provinces along the border with Turkiye, and killed and wounded a number of Syrian soldiers, Syrian officials said.
“We will, of course, call on our Turkish colleagues to show a certain restraint in order to prevent an escalation of tension, and an escalation of tension not only in the north, but also in the entire territory of Syria,” Lavrentyev was quoted as saying by the Russian state news agencies in the Kazakh capital, Astana, ahead of talks on Syria.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Turkiye’s actions would not be limited to aerial strikes, suggesting a possible new incursion — a position he reiterated on Tuesday.
“We have been on top of the terrorists for the past few days with our planes, artillery and drones,” Erdogan said: “Know that as soon as possible, we will root out all of them together with our tanks and soldiers.”
Erdogan continued: “From now on, there is only one measure for us. There is only one border. (And that is) the safety of our own country, our own citizens. It is our most legitimate right to go where this security is ensured.”
Turkiye has launched three major incursions into northern Syria since 2016 and already controls some Syrian territory in the north.
Following the weekend’s airstrikes from Turkiye, on Monday suspected Kurdish militants in Syria fired rockets across the border into Turkiye, killing at least two people and wounding 10 others, according to Turkish officials.
While Kurdish-led forces in Syria have not commented nor claimed responsibility for the attacks, the SDF on Monday vowed to respond to Turkish airstrikes “effectively and efficiently at the right time and place.”
The Turkish warplanes attacked bases of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and the Syrian People’s Protection Units, or YPG on Saturday night and on Sunday. Turkish officials claimed that 89 targets were destroyed and many militants were killed.
A Syria war monitoring group said 35 people were killed in airstrikes over the weekend — 18 Kurdish fighters, 16 Syrian government soldiers and a local journalist.