The Kurdish YPG fighters claim they have reached a deal to allow Syrian government troops to enter Afrin in the northwestern part of the border town.
Nuri Mahmoud, a spokesman for the People’s Protection Units (YPG), told Al Jazeera on Monday that they are calling on the Syrian government forces “to preserve a united Syria”, in a development that could mean regime forces might directly confront Turkish troops in the region.
Turkey and Free Syrian Army (FSA) – an Ankara-backed armed Syrian opposition group – last month launched an air and ground operation into Afrin to push the US-backed YPG fighters out to create a buffer zone on its southern border.
Ankara considers YPG, which controls Afrin, a “terrorist” organisation.
“Syrian soldiers haven’t yet arrived. We are calling on the Syrian army to protect Afrin, because we’d love to preserve a unified Syria,” Mahmoud told Al Jazeera.
“We are saying this because the international community continues to address the Syrian leadership as sovereign and we call on this authority to protect its territory.”
He added that the Syrian government forces are expected to arrive within two days.
No Turkish response yet
Turkish authorities contacted by Al Jazeera refrained from making immediate comments on the Kurdish side’s claims, saying that Turkey considers the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), active in Syria, and its armed wing YPG, to be “terrorist groups” with ties to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The PKK has waged a decades-long armed fight against the Turkish state that has killed tens of thousands of people.
The PYD/YPG has come to control large swaths of northern Syria, including Afrin, in the course of the Syrian war as it led the US-backed umbrella organisation Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.
The latest development highlights the complex battlefield of northern Syria, which hosts a high number of actors, including the PYD/YPG, the Syrian government, rebel factions, Turkey, the US and Russia.