Turkey says it's willing to support Syrian regime against Kurdish-led SDF
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu made the surprise announcement in a television interview with Turkish Channel TV100 on Wednesday.
He also revealed that Turkey previously held talks with Syrian regime ally Iran regarding the expulsion of "terrorists" from Kurdish-controlled northeastern Syria.
Çavuşoğlu’s statements come after Turkey warned it could begin a military operation in Syria "at any time".
Turkey considers the Kurdish groups which make up the main component of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to be "terrorists" and front organisations for the PKK, which has led an armed insurgency against the Turkish state in Kurdish-majority areas of Turkey since the 1980s.
"We will provide all kinds of political support for the [Syrian] regime's work in this regard,” Çavuşoğlu said in a television interview.
"It is the natural right of the Syrian regime to remove the terrorist organisation from its territory, but it is not right for the moderate opposition to be seen as terrorists," he continued.
Following Turkish threats of an operation, the Syrian regime fortified positions in SDF-held areas – in northern Syria - to prepare for “any possible aggression” by Turkey.
The Syrian regime does not recognise the SDF's control of northeastern Syria, but has cooperated with it in the past against Turkey and Syrian opposition groups.
The Turkish-based Syrian Islamic Council rejected Çavuşoğlu’s comments, saying that the “greatest terrorism practised inside Syria is the ruling criminal gang… which is the enemy of the Syrian people,” in a reference to the Assad regime.
The Syrian Islamic Council also took aim at the SDF and the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) which dominates northeastern Syria, calling them "tools of the criminal terrorist regime", saying that Turkey could not support the regime against them because they were allied with it.
The foreign minister’s comments have raised fear among Syrian refugees in Turkey that the statement might be the beginning of normalisation between the Assad regime and Ankara, the Arabic news website Arabi21 reported.
However, in Çavuşoğlu's comments, he mentioned a “moderate [Syrian] opposition”, which the regime consider to be terrorists.
Regarding this, Turkish analyst Ismail Yasha told Arabi21 that it was unlikely that Ankara and the Assad regime will come to an agreement on which groups should be classified as terror groups.
Turkey has for months been threatening to attack the SDF, while Syrian regime ally Russia has called upon the regime and Syrian Kurdish officials to work together to fight against Turkish-backed forces.
The SDF has indicated it could do this if Turkey follows through on its threats.