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  • A Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army fighter carries a military binoculars north of the city of Afrin, Syria February 18, 2018

    A Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army fighter carries a military binoculars north of the city of Afrin, Syria February 18, 2018 | Photo: Reuters

Published 19 February 2018

The Turkish government says that if the Syrian military enters its own northern Afrin region to help the YPG against the Turkish military, Turkish forces will engage Syrian forces.

The Turkish government says that if the Syrian military enters its own northern Afrin region to help the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) against Turkish military, Turkey will engage Syrian forces.  

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The YPG said its own statement from Monday - that it had negotiated with Syrian President Bashar Hafez al-Assad to form an alliance to fight the Turks in the chance they entered Afrin - was not true, but had called on the president "to come in and protect the borders," YPG leader Nouri Mahmoud told Reuters.

"There is no agreement," says Mahmoud. A Kurdish official said pressure from Russia against the accord prevented the pact from moving forward.

YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud said there was only "a call from us for the Syrian army to come in and protect the borders."

Mahmoud added, "This is its duty (to protect its borders but) so far, the Syrian army has not fulfilled its duty towards Afrin."

Syrian state media (SANA) did say this morning that the government would send its army to Afrin "within hours," but none arrived. "Popular forces will arrive in Afrin in the next few hours to support the steadfastness of its people in confronting the aggression," SANA announced today.

On Turkey’s part, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that "If (the Syrian army) comes in to defend the YPG, then nothing and nobody can stop Turkish soldiers." However, he would welcome the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in Afrin if it came to "cleanse" the YPG from the region.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is in the process of shoring up support from allies that seem to change on a daily basis. Speaking with Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone Erdogan said that al-Assad would "face consequences" if he allied with the YPG and the Afrin onslaught would continue. The Turkish head of state also talked with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani about events at the Syrian border.

When combat began at their shared border a month ago, Turkey and Syria were allied against eliminating the autonomous YPG from Afrin and Idlib in Syria, the region where the YPG had pushed out Islamic State group (IS) over the past four years, setting up three ad hoc counties.

Turkey wants to eliminate the YPG and its impromptu government from trying to form a permanent Kurdish state and nation in the region. Though the YPG denies any affiliation, the Turkish government sees no difference between the YPG and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has led an armed insurgency in southeast Turkey with the purpose of taking over the region to create its own communist-style government.

The United States and Europe classify the PKK as a terrorist group, while they view the YPG, fighting against IS, as a Western ally.

Experts say it’s unlikely that al-Assad will directly align with the YPG, which holds the most territory in Syria outside of the government, but the president has yet to indicate if, when and where he’ll place troops at the border.


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