Representatives from the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (DFNS) have been invited and will be attending the Sochi peace talks to be hosted by Russia at the end of this month (January 29th-30th). This is the first time the DFNS will have a seat at Syrian peace talks of this level, despite the fact they have, for many years now, proven to be the most efficient force against terrorist groups such as ISIS in Syria who were defeated by the Syrian Democratic Forces in the terrorist groups self-proclaimed capital, Raqqa, just a few months ago. The only force in Syria to have received support from both the US-backed coalition and Russia, the SDF (the armed forces of the DFNS) is a major power in the new emerging Syria; however, it is now under serious threat from Turkey who vehemently opposes its participation in the peace talks and moreso its existence in general. Indeed, Turkey is seeking to extend its own influence over the Syrian border using its military power and Salafist "rebel" proxies (further detail of Turkey's links to Salafist terrorist groups in Syria can be found in our submission to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee).
Ankara is angered by the announcement last week that the Kurdish-led SDF will create a new border force in the north of Syria with support from the US Coalition, as part of its ongoing strategy to maintain stability and shore up defence against Turkish invasion. In light of this new border force plan, the upcoming Sochi peace talks, and Turkey's historical aggression towards the DFNS, it is very likely Turkey will commence a full military incursion into the SDF-held Afrin canton by the weekend hoping to gain significant leverage in future peace talks and negotiations. Shelling and artillery fire by Turkey and Turkish-backed group was reported late last night (17th January) in Afrin's Sherawa and Shera districts. If successful, Turkish leader Erdogan will be able to claim a political and military victory and add legitimacy to his continuous threats against the SDF and the Democratic Federal System of Northern Syria.
This aggressive move from Turkey has the potential to totally jeopardise all chances of peaceful resolution for the Syrian conflict. Further, it risks millions of lives in an area filled with internally displaced people (around 2.5 million) from the conflict zones of Syria that sought safety in the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, a secular, multi-ethnic, multi-faith, democratic autonomous zone with a strong emphasis on women's rights and defence against the scourge of ISIS.
Demonstrations have been taking place across Afrin today and civil society groups in Northern Syria have called on everyone to show solidarity with those under attack. We call on UK parliamentarians to break the silence on this and call out the UK government for its implicit support of Turkish actions through its lucrative military trade deals and its total silence with regard to its war crimes.