SOHR: US, Syria Voice Concern Over Potential Turkish Escalation In Syria • The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

SOHR: US, Syria Voice Concern Over Potential Turkish Escalation In Syria

Turkish National Security Council to discuss on Thursday what Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed expansion of the safe zone on the southern border with Syria, particularly northeast where the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is in power.

The US voiced concern over the potential Turkish escalation, Syrian entities condemned it, while Russia has been busy dismantling mines in Ukraine, raising fears of a new wave of displacement in the region.

So far the meant area has been calm intercepted by infighting among Turkish-backed armed Syrian opposition factions (also known as the Syrian National Army SNA) in the far east of the current safe zone.

The term safe zone also known as buffer zone was first used in 2019. It is an area 30-35 km (19-22 miles) deep into Syrian territory Turkey claimed to establish aiming at settling Syrian refugees who hail from other regions in an area along its border with Syria, as well as to keep it free from SDF, which it regards as terrorists.

SDF monitoring a Turkish escalation

In an audio record to North Press, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) spokesman Aram Hanna said that the Turkish forces have recently escalated their drone attacks and the artillery shelling of different areas on frontlines in the region.

Meanwhile, many field sources denied the news circulated by Syrian opposition media outlets about the entry of convoys of the Turkish army into the Syrian territory in preparation for a new military operation.

The SDF spokesman stressed that the SDF forces are sharing the received information from the frontlines with the guarantor powers of the ceasefire agreements.

He also stressed that the powers do show rejection over launching a new Turkish occupation, but so far no official firm stance has been made to curb Turkey from launching a military operation.

Following Turkish invasion of the two cities of Sere Kaniye (Ras al-Ain) and Tel Abyad in October 2019, Turkey signed two ceasefire agreements, one with Russia and the other with the US stipulating ceasing all hostilities and the withdrawal of the SDF 32 km away from the Turkish border.

The SDF did withdrew from the border areas according to the agreement, but Turkey continues targeting the area before the eyes of Russian and the US which are the guarantors of the agreement.

Hanna praised the recent remarks made by the US Department of State and the UN, “but we hope they move from words towards effective action.”

Expanding the safe zone

“We will soon take new steps regarding the incomplete portions of the project we started on the 30km deep safe zone we established along our southern border,” said Erdogan, following a cabinet meeting on May 23.

The state-run Turkish agency Anadolu said that the area targeted by the proposed military operation is controlled by the SDF supported by the US-led Global Coalition in the war against the Islamic State Organization (ISIS).

“As soon as the Turkish armed forces complete its intelligence and security preparations, these operations will begin,” Erdogan said.

The Turkish president has threatened to invade the SDF-held areas seven times between October 2019 and May 2022, according to a statistic released by Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

US voices concern

As a first reaction to the remarks made by the NATO ally [Turkey],  Ned Price spokesperson for the US Department of State said on Tuesday that the US was expecting Turkey to live up to a October 2019 joint statement, including a halt in offensive operations in northeastern Syria.

“We condemn any escalation. We support maintenance of the current ceasefire lines,” Price said.

“Any new offensive would further undermine regional stability and put at risk US forces and the coalition’s campaign against ISIS,” he added.

ISIS sleeper cells are still active in many Syrian areas particularly near Syria-Iraq border.

However, this did not dispel fears of locals, as monitored by North Press.

They will not forget that US also voiced concern prior to the last Turkish invasion 2019 Peace Spring, but it displaced 250,000 individuals, according to a statistic by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES).

The Autonomous Administration was first formed in 2014 in the Kurdish-majority regions of Afrin, Kobani and Jazira in northern Syria following the withdrawal of the government forces. Later, it was expanded to Manbij, Tabqa, Raqqa, Hasakah and Deir ez-Zor after the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) defeated ISIS militarily.

In a direct response to journalists’ questions and an indirect message targeted to Turkey, UN said that Syria needs a political solution rather than new military operations.

Meanwhile, the second guarantor of the 2019 ceasefire agreement Russia, so far, has not comment on the potential Turkish escalation, but it is busy in its war against Ukraine that entered the fourth month.

Syrian condemnation

The Syrian government, which used to be late to response against any Turkish movements, this time it rushed to express condemnation over the potential escalation.

Chair of the Syrian Parliament’s Arab and Foreign Affairs Committee Boutros Morjana said, “Any talk about establishing a Safe Zone is absolutely illegally as is the case with the Turkish occupation.”

In remarks to the pro-government al-Watan newspaper, the Syrian parliamentarian stressed, “Plans of the Turkish regime to annex and seize these areas will not be tolerated.”

“The Syrian government as well as the Syrian people will never let these plans to be implemented,” he added.

“Turkey tries to take advantage of every possible opportunity to target and horrify residents of the areas on the border strip. It does so through media war and the successive targeting of vital installations in northeast Syria,” a female official in the AANES said.

Though many statements were raised mostly rejecting the potential Turkish escalation, the city of Sere Kaniye, located east of the Safe Zone, witnessed on Wednesday an infighting between two Turkish-backed SNA factions.

As a result of the infighting, three people were killed in the center of the city, according to eyewitnesses.

 

 

Source:  North Press

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