Feb 21 2018

Turkey too close to goals to accept Afrin deal – report

Turkey has made good progress towards its objectives in its military incursion into the northeast Syrian enclave of Afrin, and is currently unlikely to accept a deal offered by the Kurdish and Syrian regime forces standing against it, wrote journalist Hassan Hassan for the Emirati newspaper The National.

Ankara launched Operation Olive Branch on Jan. 20 to clear forces from the Peoples’ Protection Units, a group it considers to be an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), from Afrin, an area that borders Turkey.

Turkey’s overall strategic aim is to serve its regional security interests by achieving three objectives, according to Hassan: "to compel the Kurdish militants to somehow cede control of the city, to establish a security belt along its borders north and west of Afrin and to push the Americans to take its concerns more seriously."

Turkey has moved closer to achieving these objectives after almost a month of fighting, wrote Hassan, and might be expected to welcome the news that forces aligned with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime were entering Afrin.

However, the terms of their arrival, to participate in the defence against the Turkish Armed Forces, are far less favourable than a regime takeover of Afrin that would break YPG control of the area.

Hassan reports speculation that the pro-Assad militias entry into Afrin may be the first part of a plan to gradually increase the regime’s control over the area.

However, Turkey’s aims to clear out the YPG forces and secure its borders are unambiguous, and “any deal that does not meet (these) two conditions will likely be rejected by Ankara,” according to Hassan.