The war in Syria will continue until full “recovery of security and stability to all Syrian lands,” Assad said Tuesday after talks with Ali Akbar Velayati, the foreign policy adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Assad said the Syrian Arab Army (SAR) is engaging not only terrorists but also those who seek to “divide and weaken states.” The Syrian president was apparently referring to the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the American-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) which are battling Damascus to control parts of Syria.
Assad’s comments on Tuesday followed a statement made by Velayati on Friday, who said the Syrian Army will soon challenge the SDF for Raqqa which Damascus still considers to be under occupation. “We will witness in the near future the advance of government and popular forces in Syria and east of the Euphrates, and the liberation of Raqqa city,” Velayati said.
US and Turkish troops and advisers are “illegal invader” forces, Bouthaina Shaaban, Assad’s senior advisor told the Lebanon-based al-Mayadeen news. Shaaban underlined that Damascus would never allow the partition of Syria, advising Kurds, which form the backbone of the American led SDF, to embrace the national unity dialogue process.
“Everything is up to the Syrians and to discussions between Syrians, and there cannot be a discussion on the division or cutting up of a part of the country or on so-called federalism,” Shaaban said, according to Reuters. “I don’t think any government can discuss with any group when it comes to the topic of the country’s unity.”
As for the Turkish presence in the country, Assad’s advisor noted that the actions of the Turks in the north of Syria violate the Astana agreement. “Turkey today is a colonizer country, its forces on our soil are illegal, just as the American forces are on our soil illegally,” Shaaban said. “We will deal with this issue as we deal with any illegal invader force on our lands.”
In October, Ankara deployed its military to Syria's Idlib province to monitor one of four de-escalations zones in the war-torn country. The proposal to establish de-escalation zones in Syria, championed by Russia, was finalized during the September round of the Syria peace talks in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana, with Idlib becoming the fourth zone created under the deal. Amid the deployment of troops into Syria, Turkey made it clear that it would also take measures to secure its borders from the “Kurdish threat” by supporting the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA).
Turkey has long been anxious about the autonomous ambitions of the Kurds as Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) of the Democratic Union Party of Syria (PYD) with the help of American-led airstrikes, continue to capture vast territories in northern Syria. That area borders Kurdish-dominated southeastern Turkey, where Ankara continues to suppress the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
To achieve its objectives, the Turkish units set up observation posts along the border of Idlib and Afrin, which is part of the Aleppo Governorate and which also has a dominant Kurdish presence. Damascus views such incursions outside the de-escalation zone as an invasion and a violation of the Astana agreement.
The latest cross-border operation by the Turkish military has become the second campaign officially undertaken by Ankara in Syria. During Operation Euphrates Shield, launched in August last year and which ended in March, Ankara together with Turkey-aligned Syrian opposition groups liberated several IS-held areas such as Jarablus, Dabiq, al-Rai, and al-Bab.