Syrian President Bashar Assad has called for a complete stop of what he described as Turkey's aggression in northern Syria, while also demanding a full-fledged withdrawal of foreign forces from the area, Assad’s press service reports.
The Syrian President made the statement during a meeting with a Russian delegation headed by special envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev in Damascus on Friday.
“Assad confirmed that efforts should be directed at ending this [Turkish] aggression and the pullout of all illegal forces, including the Turkish and American soldiers, from Syrian territory since they are considered occupying forces under international convention,” the press service pointed out.
Lavrentyev, in turn, underscored Russia’s firm support for Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The Friday meeting came a day after Assad pledged that Damascus would give a relevant response to Turkey’s military operation.
“No matter what false slogans could be made up for the Turkish offensive, it is a flagrant invasion and aggression. Syria has frequently hit [Turkish-backed] proxies and terrorists in more than one place. Syria will respond to the assault and confront it anywhere within the Syrian territory through all legitimate means available”, Assad stressed during his talks with Iraqi National Security Adviser Falih al-Fayyadh.
Sides at Loggerheads Over US-Turkey Ceasefire Deal on Syria
Assad spoke as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US Vice President Mike Pence announced that they had clinched a ceasefire deal which will last 120 hours to allow for the withdrawal of Kurdish forces from northern Syria to a distance of about 30 kilometres (about 20 miles) from the border with Turkey.
With senior Kurdish official Aldar Khalil hailing the ceasefire agreement, the Syrian President's political adviser Bouthaina Shaaban, for her part, stated that the deal is “unclear” and that the government will not accept it.
“As for the term 'security zone’, it is incorrect: what Turkey really implies is a zone of occupation,” she asserted.
European Council President Donald Tusk, in turn, insisted that the ceasefire in northern Syria agreed upon by the United States and Turkey is insufficient.
“The so-called ceasefire, this is not what we expected. In fact, it's not a ceasefire, it's a demand for the capitulation of the Kurds. I think we have to be very consistent here […] call for Turkey to put a permanent end to its military action immediately and to withdraw its forces and to respect international humanitarian law," Tusk told reporters on Friday.
The statement followed Erdogan refuting reports that the sporadic clashes had continued in Syria’s northeast despite a 'suspension' of the Turkish operation, describing them as “disinformation” and “speculations”.
US President Donald Trump, for his part, took to Twitter to applaud a Syrian ceasefire, claiming that “millions of lives will be saved” as a result.
Turkey’s Military Operation in Northern Syria
On 9 October, Erdogan announced the launch of 'Operation Peace Spring' in northern Syria. Ankara moved troops into the area in the wake of a US military pull-out from the region, where Washington had been helping predominantly Kurdish fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Most of these fighters are part of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey considers to be terrorists.
Damascus condemned the operation as an act of foreign aggression, while France, Germany and the UK have already embargoed arms exports to Turkey, among others threatening to proceed with political and economic measures aimed at halting Ankara's offensive.