Aug 08 2019

Syrian Kurdish official warns of total war if U.S.-Turkey deal fails

A top Syrian Kurdish official on Wednesday said that a major military confrontation would occur if the United States-backed safe zone plan failed to prevent Turkey’s planned assault on northern Syria, Reuters reported

Earlier Wednesday, Turkey and the United States agreed to establish a safe zone in northern Syria, following eight months of negotiations. Ankara said last week that it would act by itself to establish the safe zone if talks with Washington failed, while deploying significant forces and equipment on its southern border.

Turkey sees the predominantly-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and its armed wing the People Protection Units (YPG) as extensions of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), while the YPG forms the backbone of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State (ISIS).

“We want a political solution and dialogue,” said Badran Jia Kurd, adviser to the Kurdish-led administration in northern Syria. “But if these regional and international efforts are exhausted, then we will be in a total, grave military confrontation.”

According to a U.S.-Turkey joint statement on Wednesday, the two NATO allies agreed to establish a joint operation centre in Turkey for the establishment of the safe zone. Yet, the statement did not provide further information on the extent of the safe zone or how joint forces will patrol it. 

Turkish newspaper Milliyet reported on Wednesday that Turkey wanted a 30 to 35 kilometre-deep safe zone, while the United States had proposed one to stretch 15 kilometres south of Turkish border. 

Meanwhile, combined Joint Task Force of coalition forces fighting against ISIS announced on Wednesday that the SDF detained 128 suspected ISIS-affiliates last week in northeastern Syria. 

“The presence of Daesh (ISIS) continues to threaten the people in the region as the group attempts to intimidate locals and garner support,” it said on Facebook. 

Kurd told Reuters that most of the Kurdish forces would have to be deployed along the Turkish border in case of an attack, which in turn could make it impossible to hunt ISIS militants and guard the jihadist prisoners. 

Aldar Xelil, another senior Kurdish politician, told Reuters that he did not expect Washington and its allies to back away from helping the SDF combat ISIS sleeper cells to secure the region.