Turkish, Syrian intelligence in direct contact when necessary: Turkish Presidency
The intelligence agencies of Turkey and Syria are in contact whenever situations in Syria necessitate it, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s spokesman İbrahim Kalın has said, while rejecting the establishment of any “political dialogue” between Ankara and Damascus.
“When extraordinary conditions necessitate it, our intelligence agency can get in direct or indirect contact [with Syrian intelligence] to solve certain problems in the field. This is part of the mission given to our intelligence organization,” Kalın told reporters at a press conference on Feb. 21.
He was responding to a question about Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s recent suggestion that Ankara and Damascus could engage in direct talks to resolve issues in Afrin.
“High-level political dialogue between Ankara and Damascus as suggested [by Lavrov) is out of the question,” Kalın said, recalling that Turkey’s indirect messages have long been conveyed to Syria by Russia and Iran within the scope of the Astana meetings.
Lavrov’s statement came amid unconfirmed reports that the Syrian regime and the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) agreed that the latter would leave Afrin city center to the control of the Syrian army.
Kalın repeated that Ankara has “no information to confirm such an agreement” and regards such news as “pure propaganda.” He also said that late on Feb. 20 a convoy of around 50 vehicles made of pro-regime militias tried to enter the Afrin district in a bid to enter the city center but were forced back by Turkish army shelling.
‘Afrin was about to become a new Qandil’
Touching on Turkey’s ongoing “Operation Olive Branch” into Afrin Kalın said Ankara believes that the YPG is “trying to turn Afrin into a new terrorist headquarters,” similar to how the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has used the Qandil Mountains in northern Iraq.
The Turkish army has uncovered hundreds of kilometers of concrete-made tunnels used by the YPG around the district, he added.