Muslim: Turkey has plans to withdraw rebel groups from Idlib to Afrin

Hoping Russia-Turkey agreement won’t target Kurds

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SULAIMANI — Turkey has plans to withdraw the “terrorist” groups from Syria’s Idlib to Afrin, said a Syrian Kurdish official.

North Syria’s Diplomatic Relations Committee chairman Salih Muslim said the Kurdish fighters would fight those rebels if Turkey transferred them to Afrin and said that the liberation of Afrin is the “main goal and fate" of Syrian Kurds.

Known formally as Operation Olive Branch, the Turkish offensive on Afrin began on January 20 and concluded with the capture of the region from the Syrian Kurdish forces on March 24.

“We believe that there are Turkish plans to withdraw these groups to Afrin, and this option will not bring a solution to the area,” Muslim told Hawar News Agency on Tuesday (September 18).

“In that case, it will be clear that Turkey does not intend to find any solution to the Syrian issue and it makes the situation more complicated.”

Turkey and Russia agreed on Monday to create a demilitarized buffer zone in Idlib from which “radical” rebels must withdraw by the middle of next month.

The Idlib region and adjoining territory north of Aleppo represents the opposition’s last big foothold in Syria. Syrian government forces have recovered most of the areas once held by the rebels, with decisive military support from Iran and Russia.

Muslim hoped the new agreement between Turkey and Syria would not target the Kurds in Syria, saying they would respond to any plans politically and militarily.

“We all know that the Turkish goal and interest in Syria is to fight the Kurds and to achieve its goals. We do not know what concessions Turkey made this time to the Russians to postpone the battle of Idlib, but it is clear that there are new agreements between them,” he said.

Turkey sees the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) as “terrorist organizations” and extensions of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).