Turkey’s Afrin Attack Complicates Sochi Talks on Syria

Turkey’s Afrin Attack Complicates Sochi Talks on Syria
Turkey’s Afrin Attack Complicates Sochi Talks on Syria

The Turkish offensive on northern Syria has complicated the peace talks organized by Turkey, Iran, and Russia to end seven years of civil war in the Arab country, a political analyst said.

"Turkey's attack on Afrin in the north of Syria under the so-called Operation Olive Branch has created ambiguity surrounding the upcoming national dialogue congress in Sochi," Asghar Zarei said in a talk with ISNA on Sunday.

Ankara joined Tehran and Moscow in late 2016 in sponsoring a peace process, known as Astana talks, to ensure a ceasefire in Syria and monitor any violations.

Iran's military advisors backed by Russia air power have intervened in the Syria conflict to back President Bashar al-Assad in his fight against militant groups that rely on support from western powers and their regional allies, including Turkey, to dislodge Assad.

The trilateral push took shape when the Iran-Russia alliance was on the brink of recapturing Aleppo, the second largest Syrian city.

The three organizers were scheduled to convene the Syrian national dialogue congress in Sochi on Jan. 29-30.

***Hard-Earned Gain at Risk

"The conference could have had a positive effect on the Astana process to resolve the Syrian crisis, but Turkey's incursion into Afrin has dashed hopes and complicated the situation," Zarei said.

He cautioned that the Turkish move could imperil the hard-earned progress made under the Astana talks.

The fourth round of the Astana discussions in May resulted in an agreement on four de-escalation zones across Syria, which sharply reduced fighting in the conflict zones.

The attack "took place in a situation where the Astana meeting had recently led to the establishment of de-escalation zones in Syria and terrorist groups had been forced out of much of Syria," the analyst said.

Iran has called on Turkey to quickly end its offensive, warning that it could boost terrorist groups.

Turkey's air and ground offensive, which started on Jan. 20, is purportedly meant to clear fighters of People's Protection Units (YPG) from a northwestern enclave of Syria.

The attack has opened a new front in the multi-sided Syrian civil war and strained Turkey's ties with NATO ally Washington.

Ankara views the YPG as terrorists and as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and has been infuriated by US support, including arms and training, for the militia.

The Kurdish fighters have played a prominent role in US-led efforts to combat the self-styled Islamic State terror group in Syria.

Since the start of the nine-day-old incursion, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Turkish forces would push east toward the town of Manbij, potentially putting them in confrontation with US troops deployed there.

The Turkish presidency said on Saturday that US National Security Advisor HR McMaster has pledged in a telephone call with Erdogan's spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, that Washington will stop supplying weapons to the Kurdish militia.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said the United States needed to follow up its promise with concrete action, including the immediate withdrawal of its troops from the vicinity of Manbij, Reuters reported.

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