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Turkey says has capacity to create ‘safe zone’ in northern Syria alone

2019/01/24 | 20:05

(Hatha al-Youm | Iraq News)- Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, December 18, 2018. Photo: UN

ISTANBUL,— Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday that Turkey has the capacity to create a “safe zone” in Syria on its own but will not exclude the United States, Russia or others if they want to cooperate.

Speaking to broadcaster A Haber, he said Ankara and Moscow were on the same page regarding a Syrian political solution aside from the issue of whether President Bashar al-Assad should stay in office.

He added that Turkey was in indirect contact with the Syrian government, without providing details.











The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces SDF, led by the Kurdish YPG militia, said last week it was ready to help create a safe zone suggested by U.S. President Donald Trump in its region across Syrian Kurdistan but said such a zone must have “international guarantees…that would prevent foreign intervention”, in an apparent reference to neighboring Turkey.

A senior Syrian Kurdish politician and former co-chair of the Diplomatic Committee of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) Salih Muslim said that he supported a proposed buffer zone along the Turkish border as long as Ankara has no involvement. “We really need a safe area, but without Turkish fingers.”, Salih Muslim told Kurdistan24 TV.

Syria’s Kurds rejected a “security zone” under Turkish control along the Syrian side of the two countries’ border.

Senior Kurdish political leader Aldar Khalil said the Kurds would accept the deployment of UN forces along the separation line between Kurdish fighters and Turkish troops to ward off a threatened offensive.

They will not accept Turkey as a guarantor because that is the country making the threats, Khalil told ANHA News on Tuesday.

On January 19, the United Nations General Secretary Antonio Guterres ruled out the deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping force in securing a proposed safe zone in northern Syria.

Trump, who announced he was pulling U.S. troops out of Syria in December 2018, suggested creating a safe zone without elaborating. Syrian Kurds fear the U.S. move to withdraw will give Turkey the opportunity to mount a new assault.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan asserted Turkey would set up a security zone some 32 kilometers (20 miles) deep into Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava) in coordination with the US.

Damascus denounced Ankara’s “language of occupation and aggression” after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey would set up a security zone in Syrian Kurdistan.

SDF commander Redur Khalil recently told the media, “The security zone sought by Ankara is a military occupation of the region and is categorically rejected by us.”

“We have never wanted to oppose Turkey, and our borders have always been safe with us over the past years, but Turkey claims to have concerns from northern and eastern Syria,” Khalil said in an interview with Al Arabiya.

“These allegations are not true, and we have expressed our intention to reach understandings with them to dispel them, and we also have concerns from the Turkish side.”

Khalil said that his forces “are looking forward to reaching understandings and solutions with them, and believes in the continuation of stability and security in the border areas with them.”

Washington has for years supported the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria, as part of an international anti-jihadist coalition dominated by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). But U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly announced the pullout from Syria.

The Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party PYD and its powerful military wing YPG/YPJ, considered the most effective fighting force against IS in Syria and U.S. has provided them with arms. The YPG, which is the backbone of the SDF forces, has seized swathes of Syria from Islamic State.

Since December 2018, Ankara has been threatening to launch a new offensive against the Syrian Kurdish fighters.

In 2013, the 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.

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.

Analysts believe that Turkey is using the YPG as a pretext to invade Syrian Kurdistan and to undermine the Kurdish autonomous regions.

Ankara has previously launched two operations in Syrian Kurdistan.

On August 24, 2016 Turkish troops entered the Syrian territory in a sudden incursion which resulted in the occupation of Jarablus after IS jihadists left the city without resistance. Most of Turkish operations were focused only against the Kurdish forces.

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.

Then 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 fighters of kidnappings for ransom, armed robberies and torture.

(With file from Reuters, Agencies)

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