Coalition working to ‘de-escalate’ tensions between Turkey, Syria Kurds
In a sign that neither side wants the situation to escalate, Turkish and US forces started joint patrols in rural areas of the northwestern Syrian town of Manbij, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said.
“Coordination and consultation between the United States and Turkey on issues of security concern is a better approach”, he said.
The approximately 50,000-strong Syrian Democratic Forces are a mix of Kurdish and Arab fighters and have been the primary ground force fighting ISIS in much of the country.
Two U.S. defense officials and Turkish officials confirmed the patrols in northern Syria on Thursday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erodgan and US President Donald Trump discussed Manbij and the wider situation in Syria in a phone call on Thursday, Erdogan’s office stated.
“We will destroy the terror structure east of the Euphrates River”.
Turkey’s defense minister and the US -led military coalition in Syria confirmed the start of the patrols in Manbij, about 30 km (19 miles) from the Turkish border, on Thursday.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the European Union – has been responsible for the deaths of some 40,000 people, including women and children.
Turkey has accused the US -back Kurdish forces of containing elements of the YPG, a Kurdish terrorist group, a charge the Pentagon has repeatedly said is not accurate.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, also said the patrols would follow days of Turkish shelling of positions of the main Kurdish militia.
Ankara considers the YPG to be a “terrorist offshoot” of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a bloody insurgency in Turkey since 1984 with the goal of forming an independent Kurdish state. This assault has already forced Kurdish forces to retreat across the Euphrates river.
The state-run Anadolu news agency said four Kurdish fighters were killed and six were wounded in the attack on Wednesday.
The SDF on Wednesday said it would temporarily halt its campaign against ISIS in protest over continued Turkish aggression in the Kobani region. The campaign against ISIS “is not over and that fight remains hard”, he said.
The plan foresees the withdrawal of the YPG from the region where American and Turkish soldiers were expected to conduct joint patrols.
Despite an agreement between Ankara and Washington to cooperate in Syria in a strategic town in the north, Turkey had recently threatened to expand its operations in Syria to go after Kurdish forces working in northeast Syria, where the campaign against ISIS continues. He was referring to a Kurdish enclave taken earlier this year by Turkish troops and Turkey-backed Syrian opposition fighters.