AKCAKALE, Turkey,— Armed Turkish military vehicles crossed into Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava) in northeast Syria on Sunday to begin planned joint U.S.-Turkey patrols to establish a “safe zone” along the border.
A Reuters witness said vehicles with Turkish flags joined those in Syria with U.S.
flags some 15 kilometers (nine miles) east of the Turkish border town of Akcakale, near Syria’s Gire Spi (Tel Abyad), which was liberated by Kurdish forces from Islamic State IS in June 2015.
The region east of the Euphrates river is mainly controlled by Kurdish YPG forces.
The goal of the zone is to create a buffer between the Turkish border and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units of Syrian Kurdistan (YPG).
The Kurdish YPG has been a key partner to Washington in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria. The Kurdish YPG forces expelled the Islamic State from its last patch of territory in the eastern Syrian village of Baghouz in March 2019.
Turkey fears the creation of a Kurdish autonomous region or Kurdish state in Syrian Kurdistan could encourage separatism amongst its own Kurds, according to analysts.
Since 2018, Erdogan has repeatedly threatened to launch an assault east of the Euphrates river against the YPG, which fought against the Islamic State (IS) group.
Turkey previously conducted cross-border operations in northern Syria supporting Syrian rebels in 2016 against IS and in early 2018 against the YPG.
In 2016, the Turkish troops entered northern Syria in an area some 100 km east of Afrin to stop the Kurdish YPG forces from extending areas under their control and connecting Syrian Kurdistan’s Kobani and Hasaka in the east with Afrin canton in the west.
In January 2018, Turkish military forces backed pro-Ankara Syrian mercenary fighters to clear the YPG from its northwestern enclave of Afrin. In March 2018, the operation was completed with the capture of the Kurdish city of Afrin.
The flags of Turkey and Syrian rebel groups were raised in the Kurdish Afrin city and a statue of Kurdish hero Kawa, a symbol of resistance against oppressors, was torn down.
Residents of the Kurdish city and Human right groups accuse Turkey and pro-Ankara mercenary fighters of ethnic cleansing, kidnappings for ransom, armed robberies and torture.
In 2013, the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party PYD — the political branch of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) — has established three autonomous Cantons of Jazeera, Kobani and Afrin and a Kurdish government across Syrian Kurdistan in 2013. On March 17, 2016, Kurdish and Arab authorities announced the creation of a “federal region” made up of those semi-autonomous regions in Syrian Kurdistan.
Turkey plans to resettle 1 million refugees in northern Syria and may reopen the route for migrants into Europe if it does not receive adequate international support for the plan, President Tayyip Erdogan said last Thursday.
This is a developing story…
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