The Syrian Kurds lost enthusiasm for efforts to resolve the situation in northeastern Syria in accordance with a Russian-Turkish memorandum as soon as US troops returned to the country’s north, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a press conference on Tuesday.
"I would advise Kurdish political leaders to stick to their word. Right after the memorandum had been signed [in Sochi] on October 22, we obtained Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s consent to implement it, and Kurdish leaders vigorously assured us that they would cooperate. However, in just a few days the United States changed its position and said that when withdrawing troops from Syria, they [the Americans] had forgotten about the need to protect oil fields to make sure that the Syrian government did not take control of them, and the Kurdish leadership immediately lost enthusiasm for cooperation in accordance with the Sochi agreement and once again opted to rely on the United States’ support," the Russian top diplomat pointed out, TASS reports.
According to him, the Kurds need to understand that efforts to ensure their rights require maintaining Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. "To achieve this goal, they should build meaningful dialogue with the Syrian government. Once the Americans announced their withdrawal from Syria, they [the Kurds] expressed readiness for dialogue but later they returned to a rather unconstructive position," Lavrov emphasized. "So I would advise our Kurdish colleagues to be consistent and refrain from taking questionable actions as the situation changes," he added.
When commenting on reports that the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces accused Turkey of planning to violate the Sochi memorandum, the Russian foreign minister noted that Moscow did not have "information proving that Turkey plans to violate it."
On October 9, Turkey launched a military incursion into northern Syria, codenaming it Operation Peace Spring, with the Turkish Armed Forces and the Ankara-backed Free Syrian Army carrying it out. The Turkish government claimed that its goal was to clear the border area of what it calls ‘terrorists’ (Ankara’s broad label of the Kurdish forces) and establish a 30 km-long buffer zone in Syria’s north, where over 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey would resettle. Damascus slammed the operation as aggression, and the international community condemned Ankara’s move.
On October 22, Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey signed a memorandum on joint actions to resolve the situation in northeastern Syria. Russian military police units and Syrian troops were deployed to areas adjacent to the zone of Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring. Kurdish units were given 150 hours to pull out of the 30-km zone along the Syria-Turkey border. The withdrawal was completed by October 29 and on November 1, Russian military police and Turkish troops launched joint patrols in areas east of the Euphrates River.