BEIRUT — Pro-Syrian government forces will begin entering the Syrian Kurdish enclave of Afrin in the country’s northwest “within hours,” after reaching an agreement with the Kurdish militia in control of the region, Syrian state media said Monday.
The official news agency SANA said the forces will deploy in Afrin to “bolster” local forces in confronting Turkish “aggression,” suggesting the Syrian government and Kurdish fighters have struck a deal under which the government forces would help repel an ongoing Turkish offensive on the enclave.
The agreement may prompt Turkey to pull out its forces and end a month-long air and ground offensive that aims to oust the Syrian Kurdish militia known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, from Afrin. Ankara considers the YPG a “terrorist group” linked to its own Kurdish insurgency within Turkey’s borders.
SANA gave no further details about the deployment of the troops, known as “popular forces,” to the area. The Syrian government withdrew from much of the border area with Turkey in 2012 and maintains no presence in Afrin.
The move could be a first step toward restoring Syrian government presence along the border with Turkey, which has been an active supporter of President Bashar Assad’s opponents and sponsored rebels fighting to oust him throughout the seven-year Syrian civil war.
However, Turkey in recent years has focused more on limiting expanding Kurdish influence along its borders.
Turkey’s private Haberturk newspaper said the Syrian government forces were expected to deploy at 52 locations within the week and to four locations in the next two days. The paper claimed that under the deal, the YPG had agreed to hand over heavy weapons it holds.
The paper did not provide a source for the report.