Saturday, 20 October, 2018

Turkey Ratchets Up Pressure on Syrian Kurds

Turkey distances itself from Russia to plunge Syria into greater chaos Turkey discusses operation in Syria's Afrin with Russia, US — deputy PM
Kenny Thornton | 19 January, 2018, 07:50

The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia controls key northern Syrian towns including Manbij and Afrin, and is an ally of the USA but Ankara accuses the group of being a terror organisation.

The move comes after the United States announced this week it would train the YPG-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to be part of a 30,000-strong "border force" - a statement US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Thursday was "misportrayed".

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signaled deeper US commitment to Syria on Wednesday, saying America would maintain its military presence there to prevent an Islamic State resurgence.

"We will intervene in Afrin", Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told broadcaster CNN Turk, adding he did not expect Russian Federation to oppose any operation there.

Protesters shouted "Down, down, Erdogan!" and "With our soul, with our blood, we are with you Afrin!"

The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) have been carrying out their final preparations and drills near the Syrian border ahead of an expected offensive into the Afrin district.

The British foreign ministry has said it will not be involved in the Syrian border force.

At the same time, the USA announced they are planning to create a 30,000 men-border- force, consisting of Kurds, that Ankara regarded as a blow below the belt.

Turkey considers elements of the Syrian forces that the United States backs to be part of the PKK, a Kurdish organization widely considered to be a terrorist group.

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Turkey has long protested the US support for the PYD/PKK terror group, while Washington has brushed off these criticisms, saying it needs the terror group's help to fight Daesh in Syria.

"We warn that the Syrian Air Force is ready to destroy Turkish air targets in the skies of Syria", Mekdad told reporters, according to Syria's official SANA news agency.

Speaking at Stanford University after being introduced by former top diplomat Condoleezza Rice, Tillerson said the Trump administration was determined not to repeat President Barack Obama's "mistake" when he withdrew USA troops from Iraq in 2011.

The MGK statement again slammed the USA support for the YPG - an ally of Washington in the fight against Islamic State (IS) jihadists - saying it was "regrettable" that a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally had "declared terrorists as a partner".

But a crisis unfolding on the Syria-Turkey border that threatens to embroil the USA military in a wider regional conflict underscored how hard it will be for the relatively small US presence in Syria to influence the outcome of the conflict there.

"The departure of Assad through the UN-led Geneva process will create the conditions for a durable peace within Syria and security along the borders", Tillerson said. "The preparations have been completed, the operation could start at any moment", Erdogan said this week, as the Turkish army sent dozens of military vehicles and hundreds of additional personnel to the border area.

"We will never allow the establishment of a terrorist army along the southern borders [of Turkey]", he reiterated, adding Turkey would take all measures to protect its borders, and citizens within the framework of global law.

"As we have seen from Iran's proxy wars and public announcements, Iran seeks dominance in the Middle East and the destruction of our ally Israel", he said.

It is also not clear if USA military personnel are deployed around Manbij, as they were a year ago.

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