Militias allied to the Syrian government will enter the Afrin region, Syrian media reported on Monday, after a Kurdish official said a deal had been struck with the Syrian army to help Kurdish forces end a Turkish offensive.
Turkey said it would welcome any move by Damascus into Afrin to get rid of the YPG Kurdish militia, but if Syrian troops were entering to protect the Kurdish fighters, then the Turkish assault would go on.
A second Syrian Kurdish official said no pro-government military forces were arriving in Afrin on Monday. While the deal was supposed to have been announced formally on Monday, the source said, external pressure might prevent it going ahead.
Turkey began its operation last month with allied Syrian rebel groups to drive out the YPG, which Ankara regards as a terrorist group linked to an insurgency at home and sees as a security threat to its border.
That offensive further complicated the web of rivalries and alliances in northern Syria among Kurdish forces, the Syrian government, rebel factions, Turkey, Iran, the United States and Russia.
But on Sunday, a senior Syrian Kurdish official said Kurdish forces and the Syrian government had reached a deal for the Syrian army to enter Afrin, and that it could be implemented within two days.
All deals between the Syrian government and the Kurds, which
each hold more territory than any other side in Syria, are closely watched because they could prove pivotal for the future course of the war.
While President Bashar al-Assad’s government and the YPG espouse different visions for Syria’s future and their forces have clashed at times, they have mostly avoided direct conflict.
“Popular forces will arrive in Afrin in the next few hours to support the steadfastness of its people in confronting the aggression,” state news agency SANA reported, citing its correspondent in Aleppo, 35 km (22 miles) from Afrin.
Turkey welcomes Syrian forces entering Afrin