Apr 09 2019

Syrian Kurdish militia will talk if Turkey leaves Afrin - commander

The top Syrian Kurdish militia is willing to talk to Turkey once its forces leave Afrin and stop threatening northeast Syria, a commander of the U.S.-allied Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on Monday, according to Kurdistan24.

General Mazloum Kobani, commander-in-chief of the SDF, the lead local force in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS), made the comments during a speech celebrating the defeat of ISIS. In early 2018, Turkey occupied Syria’s Afrin following a military incursion.

The Kurdish leadership in northeast Syria “is ready to open negotiations with Turkey” once they withdraw from the former Kurdish-held enclave, said Kobani, according to Kurdistan24.

Following a December announcement that he was pulling U.S. troops out of Syria, President Donald Trump suggested the creation of a buffer zone.

The SDF fears the U.S. withdrawal will give Turkey the opportunity to launch a military operation against them, which it has repeatedly vowed to do.  Turkey sees the the SDF and the mainly Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) as extensions of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has been fighting a war for Kurdish autonomy from Turkey for more than 30 years.

“The second condition is that Turkey ends its threats against northeastern Syria,” said Kobani. “This will allow the national forces in Syria to find peace in the next phase after the defeat of ISIS.”

Nicholas A. Heras, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, told Kurdistan 24 the SDF must be pragmatic in dealing with its allies, the United States, and those that threaten it, like Turkey.

“The SDF needs to show the U.S. team that it can be a serious partner for peace and stability in Syria, even if that means playing nice with Turkey,” said Heras.