Cairo stepping up political, diplomatic support for Syria’s Kurds - Arab Weekly

Cairo has stepped up political and diplomatic support for Syria’s Kurds, who are faced with a Turkish offensive in the war-torn country’s Kurdish-held northeast, Arab Weekly columnist Hassan Abdel Zaher wrote on Saturday. 

Egypt, during a meeting on Oct. 12 in Cairo with a delegation of the Syrian Democratic Council, the political arm of the U.S. -backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), expressed the right of Syrian Kurds to resist Turkish aggression. 

Cairo later called for an emergency session of foreign ministers at the Arab League, which issued a condemnation of the Turkish offensive, calling it an “invasion of an Arab state’s land and an aggression on its sovereignty”.

Egypt also tried to raise the issue of the Turkish offensive in meetings with European and U.S. officials, the article said. 

Turkey launched an offensive targeting Kurdish forces in northeast Syria on Oct. 9, with the goal of establishing a safe zone in northern Syria that is clear of the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which forms the bulk of the SDF. Turkey sees the YPG as an existential threat due to its links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has fought for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey for over three decades. 

Ankara and Washington on Thursday agreed to a ceasefire in northeast Syria after hours of negotiations, however, reports of clashes and air strikes continue.

Tensions have been escalating between Egypt and Turkey since the Arab Spring and peaked when Ankara offered the Muslim Brotherhood leadership refuge following the ouster of late Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi in June 2013.

Turkey, which has become a haven for exiled members of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, is involved in the Islamist organisation’s media and propaganda machine, Abdel Zaher wrote.

However, Egypt’s stance on Syrian Kurds is “less about settling scores with Istanbul than about Syria’s territorial integrity, which Egypt has been calling for preserving,’’ the article said citing analysts.

“Egypt is totally against regional powers imposing their own agendas on Syria at a time this Arab state suffers many weaknesses,” the article quoted Mohamed Abdel Qadir, a Turkish affairs specialist at Egyptian think-tank Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, as saying. “The Turkish occupation of parts of Syria threatens the country’s territorial integrity and seeks to change demographic realities in it.”

Leading Cairo’s concerns is the possibility that the Turkish incursion would pave the way for the revival of ISIS, whose branch Egypt is fighting in Sinai, with thousands of ISIS members potentially fleeing Kurdish prisons and camps.