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Ilhan Tanir
Feb 05 2019

Turkey guilty of terrorism in northern Syria, says senior Kurdish official

Turkey's role in northern Syria is negative and the country is "engaging in terrorism itself," a  senior Syrian Kurdish official said during a panel in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday.

Turkey has conducted two military interventions into Syria. The first operation, called Euphrates Shield, primarily targeted Islamic State (ISIS) in 2016 and the second intervention, dubbed Olive Branch, in 2018, targeted Syrian Kurdish Forces, namely the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the predominantly Kurdish militia that is a key component of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance, considered a terrorist organisation by Ankara.

Ilham Ahmed, head of the Executive Committee of the Syrian Democratic Council, who is on a week-long visit to the U.S. capital for meetings, directed harsh criticism towards Turkey, calling on Western countries to support the Syrian Kurds following U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement in December of the immediate withdrawal of troops from Syria during a panel organised by American Rojava Center for Democracy at the National Press Club, Washington, DC.

Recalling that the Syrian Kurdish Forces lost more than 8,000 fighters and thousands more were wounded during their fight against ISIS since mid-2018, Ahmed stressed that northeastern Syria should be protected by coalition forces, not Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey should take control of the proposed safe zone in northern Syria, appearing to rule out a U.S. proposal that several allies police the region.

“We are insistent about our request for a security zone,” Erdoğan told members of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) during a televised speech in parliament on Tuesday. “It must be under our control, other countries may only provide logistical support.”

Ahmed also called for support to "remove Turkish forces from Syria" and added all other foreign troops should be out of the war-torn country as well.

Referring to Turkey’s 2018 invasion of the Kurdish enclave of Afrin with the help of Syrian rebel forces, Ahmed said "what happened there should not be repeated and Turkey should not be allowed to come back again." Ahmed ruled out a Turkey-controlled buffer zone altogether, saying such a scenario was "unacceptable."

Ahmed described what she said was a "genocide against people of Afrin" by the Turkish-backed forces. Ahmed, like Turkish officials, called for the creation of a safe zone in northeastern Syria, but stressed its purpose should be "protecting Kurds from Turkey."

The Turkish president on Tuesday said no satisfactory agreement had been reached thus far on how the zone would be run and Turkey’s military preparations were continuing discussions with the United States on the matter.