Geneva voices concerns over Turkish offensive against Syrian Kurds

26 January, 2018, 01:31 | Author: Essie Rivera
  • Cavusoglu Turkish forces have no intention of attacking Syrian gov’t troops

The call came as Erdogan announced Turkey would extend its military operation against Kurds from the Afrin area to the Syrian town of Manbij - a move that wold bring Turkish forces closer to USA forces working with the Kurds. "He urged Turkey to exercise caution and avoid any actions that might risk conflict between Turkish and American forces".

Tensions between the US and Turkey surfaced during an apparently confrontational phone call between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US President Donald Trump on Wednesday.

Turkey has said it will extend its incursion in Syria to the town of Manbij, taking its forces to the edge of the US-backed Kurdish presence in the country's northeast and raising the spectre of a military standoff with Washington.

The offensive on the city of Afrin, which began on Saturday, targets the People's Protection Units (YPG) and their political wing the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Ankara considers terror groups linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is blacklisted as a terrorist organization by Ankara and its Western allies. Or the back-pedalling by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson about the announcement that triggered the Turkish offensive.

The Turkish shelling by assorted weaponry has targeted residential areas in Afrin, 63 km north of Aleppo province in northern Syria, leaving civilian casualties and big property losses, said SANA.

Syrian Kurdish authorities have repeatedly called on the United States to swiftly enforce a no-fly zone to put an end to any further Turkish airstrikes.

A new round of United Nations -led talks on Syria opened Thursday in Vienna, where United Nations special envoy Staffan de Mistura met with Syrian government representatives and planned to separately hold talks with an opposition delegation.

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Erdogan last week accused the Trump administration of breaking a reported promise to cease support of Kurdish fighters upon the defeat of ISIS, after the USA -led coalition announced it would continue working with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces on stabilization missions.

Ankara has been infuriated by USA support for the YPG, which it sees as a domestic security threat, one of several issues that have brought relations between the United States and its Muslim NATO ally close to breaking point.

In its statement, the White House said Mr Trump "invited closer bilateral co-operation to address Turkey's legitimate security concerns" in fighting the YPG and the PKK. Ankara views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdish insurgency in Turkey.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has said the operation, which involves Turkish troops accompanied by allied Syrian rebels and backed by war planes, artillery, and tanks, was aimed at creating a security zone some 30 kilometers deep inside Syria. "Don't know what the answer will be", the director of the U.S. military's joint staff, Lt. Gen. Kenneth "Frank" McKenzie, told reporters Thursday at the Pentagon, calling it "a policy decision". "Unlike some other regions in northern Syria, we do not have U.S. military bases or even military observers", she said.

Turkish officials have expressed their intent to launch a similar operation in Manbij following the completion of their offensive in Afrin.

A senior US official said that as of Tuesday the Turks had not been ready to engage in detail on such a proposal.

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