MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia hopes Turkey will "refrain" from launching an offensive in northern Syria, a diplomatic spokesman said on Thursday (June 2), after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan renewed threats of a military campaign targeting Kurdish "terrorists".
"We hope that Ankara will refrain from actions that could lead to a dangerous deterioration of the already difficult situation in Syria," Russia's Foreign Affairs Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement.
"Such a move, in the absence of the agreement of the legitimate government of the Syrian Arab Republic, would be a direct violation of Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity" and would "cause a further escalation of tensions in Syria", she added.
Erdogan on Wednesday renewed threats of a military offensive in northern Syria.
"We are taking another step in establishing a 30km security zone along our southern border. We will clean up Tal Rifaat and Manbij", he said, referring to two northern Syrian cities.
Erdogan said they would then proceed, "step by step, into other regions".
For a week now, Turkey's leader has been threatening to launch an operation against fighters of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
He is also targeting the People's Protection Units (YPG), a Syrian-Kurdish group it considers to be part of the PKK.
Zakharova said "we understand Turkey's concerns about threats to national security emanating from the border regions" with Syria, but added that the problem can only be solved if Syrian troops are deployed in the area.
Under the terms of a 2019 agreement Russia, an ally of the Damascus regime, and Turkey agreed to ensure Kurdish forces withdrew from areas in Syria close to the Turkish border and to launch joint patrols.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday warned Nato ally Turkey against a military offensive in Syria, saying it would put the region at risk.