Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that the Turkish military incursion into northeastern Syria could lead to the revival of the Daesh terrorist group in the region.
Putin issued the warning in a televised address during a visit to Turkmenistan on Friday, saying that members of the Takfiri outfit held in northeast Syria could escape from jail as a result of the Turkish offensive.
“I’m not sure whether the Turkish army will be able to take this under control — and how soon,” Putin was quoted as saying by the Russia’s Interfax news agency. “This is a real threat to us.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Tuesday that his country’s military forces and the Turkish-backed militants of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) had launched an offensive in Syria’s northeast.
Erdogan has claimed that the offensive only targets militants affiliated with Daesh as well as Kurdish militants in order to establish a Turkish safe-region there and resettle millions of refugees in the area.
Ankara views US-backed YPG militants as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group, which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since 1984.
The YPG also constitutes the backbone of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an anti-Damascus alliance of predominantly Kurdish militants, which has much of northern Syria under control.
Russia calls on Turkey to show restraint
The Russian Foreign Ministry also called on Ankara on Friday to exercise restraint in northeast Syria, saying in a statement that it was important not to allow the situation there to be further destabilized.
Describing the issue as a matter “of the most serious concern,” the ministry called for talks between the Syrian government and the Kurdish militants, and said it was ready to help facilitate such dialogue even as Damascus has ruled out talks with separatists.
The plea came a day after Russia and the United States used their veto power at the United Nations Security Council to vote down a European statement against Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria.
Five European members — France, Germany, Belgium, Britain and Poland — had called the meeting to end the unilateral military action.
The US has long been providing the YPG and SDF militants with arms, calling them a key partner in the purported fight against the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group in Syria. Many observers, however, see the support as part of Washington’s plans to carve out a foothold in the Arab country.
Erdogan said on Thursday that his country’s forces had already killed, injured or captured a total of 109 Kurdish forces. However, the SDF said the number was exaggerated.
The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which is based in London, said at least 16 SDF militants had been killed and dozens more injured.
The International Rescue Committee aid organization said an estimated 70,000 people have fled their homes and the number could surpass 300,000 if the offensive were to continue at this rate.
Tusk raps ‘blackmail’
EU Council President Donald Tusk on Friday condemned as attempted “blackmail” a threat by Erdogan to allow millions of refugees to head to Europe if the bloc criticizes Ankara’s incursion.
“Turkey must understand that our main concern is that their actions may lead to another humanitarian catastrophe, which would be unacceptable,” Tusk said on a visit to EU member Cyprus.
“Nor will we ever accept that refugees are weaponised and used to blackmail us. That is why I consider yesterday’s threats made by President (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan totally out of place,” he added.
Erdogan made his comments on Thursday in the face of mounting condemnation from European governments of Ankara’s incursion.
“Hey EU, wake up. I say it again: if you try to frame our operation there as an invasion, our task is simple: we will open the doors and send 3.6 million migrants to you,” Erdogan said.
The refugees are the result of an eight-year conflict in Syria, which both Turkey and the EU have helped to flare on.