Turkish Minister of National Education Nabi Avci has confirmed, during a parliamentary session on Thursday, that Russian military units have been moving and operating in northern Syria along with Assad regime forces and PKK’s Syrian affiliate PYD militant groups.
The PKK is recognised as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the EU, US, and NATO and Turkish security forces have recently stepped up efforts against the group, launching an extensive internal security operation in southeastern and eastern regions in order to scatter the network of PKK groups.
“It is correct that regime forces and Russians have been moving together in regime-controlled territories of Syria. It is also correct that there has been a certain Russian military presence along with regime forces in Qamishli,” Avci informed his colleagues at the Parliament.
“In Qamishli, [Syrian] regime forces, Russian troops, and PYD have been cooperating each other,” he stated.
Qamishli is located right across the Nusaybin district of Turkey’s Mardin province which lays along the Turkish-Syrian border and has recently been a scene of heavy clashes between Turkish security forces and PKK.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Tugrul Turkes has also said that, “Russian forces in Qamishli could not form a threat against NATO-member Turkey no matter how many troops have been stationed there.”
Turkey and US-led anti-DAESH coalition have consistently defended the toppling of the Assad regime while Russia and Iran have supported the regime since the beginning of the conflict.
Russian intervention into the Syrian conflict began with a bombing campaign on the side of the Assad regime on Sept. 30, targeting mostly Syrian opposition-held territories in the country, rather than DAESH. The intervention has been strongly protested by US, Turkey and the NATO alliance.
The incident has caused a political crisis between the countries which have strong economic ties with one another, leading Turkish and Russian leaders to issue warnings against one another.