Published: Sun, January 21, 2018
Global | By Marsha Munoz

Backed Syrian force says will have to respond if Turkey attacks

Backed Syrian force says will have to respond if Turkey attacks

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday denied that the United States had any intention to build a Syria-Turkey border force, saying the issue, which has incensed Ankara, had been "misportrayed".

Ankara considers the YPG a terrorist group for its links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

According to the statement issued by Turkish General Staff, the phone talks were held on the request from the US and Russian sides.

On Monday, with relations between the United States and Turkey stretched close to breaking point, Erdogan threatened to "strangle" the planned US -backed force in Syria "before it's even born".

However, Turkish officials appear unmollified.

An operations group of the Russian center for reconciliation of warring sides and military police has been re-deployed from Syria's Afrin to Tel Ajar after Turkey had launched its offensive, Russia's Defense Ministry said on Saturday.

"The operation may start any time".

Since the YPG's territory is pretty much all on the Turkish border, Turkey envisions ousting them from all of it, starting with Afrin, then hitting Manbij, and eventually the rest. It is home to an estimated 1 million people, majority ethnic Kurdish.

"The goal of the Republic of Turkey is not and may never be to bring prejudice to the territorial integrity of Syria".

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Turkish planes on Saturday launched air strikes on Syrian Kurdish militias in Afrin, a military escalation likely to complicate United States attempts to end the war.

Whether the semantics will be enough to head off the threatened Turkish assault on the Kurdish enclave of Afrin is unclear, however. The US is arming and training the Kurds as a bulwark against ISIS, but also as an obstacle to Iran's ambitions in Syria; Iran's Kurds would also like to break away and someday reunite with Kurds in Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

The Turkish threats of a full-fledged offensive on Afrin are not new.

Earlier, the Turkish army shelled Afrin from positions in the neighbouring rebel-held Syrian province of Idlib. The concept of such a force has outraged Turkey, which says the Kurdish fighters have designs on Turkish territory.

A spokesman for USA -backed Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) confirmed that Turkish forces began heavily shelling Syria's Afrin region from Turkish territory on January 19 shortly after midnight.

The plan as of now is to equip the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) for this role, a Kurdish-led umbrella force for an alliance of sub groups in the region.

Tensions soared upon the announcement of a YPG-led, USA -supported anti-jihadist border force in Syria.

Canikli said Ankara had "no option" and must "clear all terrorist elements" from northern Syria, which shares a border with Turkey.

"Let us be clear, the United States will maintain a military presence in Syria focused on ensuring [the Islamic State] can not re-emerge", Tillerson said.

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"Turkey sees this as a process legitimizing the current division in Syria", he added.

Russian Federation is an ally of the Assad regime which Turkey has opposed since the onset of the war.

"Relations are going from being allies and strategic partners to becoming enemies", Bayraktar observed.

Image of Turkish military in Syria from Middle East Monitor.

"Turks want to make sure that they register their strong opposition to this and, actually, do something about it", Pollock said.

Turkey has launched a military campaign in Afrin region, northwestern Syria, to eliminate the PKK, PYD, YPG and Daesh terrorist organizations, and to save civilians in the region from the terrorists' oppression and cruelty.

"I am skeptical that the Turks will go in in a big way".

Kurdish media say the Afrin enclave, which is north-west of the city of Aleppo and covers about 2,300 sq km (900 sq miles), is home to as many as 500,000 people.

Rafet Aslantas, an expert from Turkey-based ANKA Institute, told VOA that a Turkish operation also could mean more refugees.

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Turkey has been working closely with Russian Federation and Iran to end the long-running Syrian war, despite Moscow and Tehran supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad - and Ankara backing the anti-Assad opposition.

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