Chairman of the Syrian Democratic Council Rezan Hiddo said that the council is awaiting for the reaction of Syria and Russia to Turkey’s alleged training of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) militants to launch an operation in the Northern Syrian city of Afrin, in the wake of the US’ decision to arm the Syrian Kurds. “According to the received intel, Turkey is training FSA forces in order to carry out an operation in Afrin. Turkey decided to conduct the operation after the United States made the decision to supply weapons to the People’s Protection Units (YPG). Turkey cannot conduct ground operations in Kobani and Qamishli, as there are US troops there, but there are none in Afrin, that is why Turkey plans to carry out the operation here… We are waiting for the reaction of the Syrian and Russian governments in response to the Turkish plans,” Hiddo told Sputnik.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that his visit to the United States next week would herald a new beginning in relations between the two countries. Relations between the NATO allies have been strained by differences over Syria policy. U.S. President Donald Trump approved a plan on Tuesday (May 9) to arm the Syrian Kurdish YPG in the fight against Islamic State (ISIS), a move which was strongly objected by Turkey, which sees the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Erdogan told a news conference at the capital Ankara that he believed the United States was still going through a “transition period”, and that decisions such as the arming the YPG dated back to policies from the previous administration. He also said he would pursue Turkey’s demand for the extradition of the U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen who Ankara says was behind a failed military coup last July. That was followed by a purge of tens of thousands of Turkish state employees accused of links to Gulen, who has denied any involvement in the coup attempt.
Turkey is eyeing new ties with the United States under the administration of President Donald Trump, demanding a strong stance on the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) and the extradition of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said.Erdoğan and Trump are expected to hold their first face-to-face meeting on May 16 in Washington. “We can’t achieve anything with the logic ‘this terrorist organization is on my side, so it’s good, but the other one is against me, so it’s bad.’ All terrorist organizations are bad. Thus, we need to continue our struggle against terrorist groups in joint solidarity. When we do that, the world will be safe from these gangs and killers”, he also said.
Even before the expected battle for the ISIS-held Syrian city of Raqqa, a politician from the Democratic Union Party (PYD) has said that Raqqa could be a part of a “democratic federal” system in northern Syria. “We in al-Raqqa Civil Council thank SDF that fulfilled its promise of liberation, and today we see that a big part of al-Raqqa countryside has been liberated by virtue of the martyrs’ sacrifices and the heroic resistance of SDF with all its factions”, a statement from RCC Co-Chair Layla Mostafa read. The YPG, the PYD’s military arm, is one of the groups fighting ISIS under the SDF banner in northern Syria. No decisions have been announced about what force will ultimately enter the city of Raqqa, ISIS’s so-called capital and the largest city it still controls in Syria. The spokesperson for the US-led coalition to defeat ISIS spoke to Rudaw TV in mid-March about Raqqa operations. Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said in February the local Raqqa population should be supported by the international community, while “Turkey, US, and other elements can give logistic support to this city,” according to Anadolu Agency. Raqqa “should not be left in the hands of other terrorist organizations”, he added, referring to YPG.
Turkish Foreign Minister M. Cavusoglu said that would strike against U.S.-backed Kurdish YPG militia in the Syrian town of Manbij if they didn’t leave. Cavusoglu doesn’t see any different solution, cause the Syrian presence represents an hindrance to its efforts to create a “safe zone” on Turkish borders. Russia’s possible support for Syrian Kurds may be a positive turning point.
The northern Syrian city of Manbij is under the protection of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is dominated by the PKK’s Syrian affiliate YPG, a YPG-linked militia group announced on Sunday, dismissing Russian claims that the city will be handed over to Assad regime. The statement came after Russian General Staff had claimed last Friday that an agreement was reached between the Assad regime and the YPG for the peaceful transfer of Manbij’s control to the Assad regime forces. “We in the Manbij Military Council confirm again that Manbij and its rural areas are under the protection of the Manbij Military Council and under the care of the international coalition and its protection”, the self-declared ”Manbij military council” of the terrorist-dominated SDF said. Turkey, which launched Operation Euphrates Shield on August 24 to back the Free Syrian Army (FSA) against terrorist groups [including the PYD/YPG and Daesh] alongside its Syrian border, successfully cleared Manbij from Daesh terrorists and declared last week that the next target would be to liberate YPG-controlled Manbij. Turkish Foreign Minister MevlütÇavuşoğlu said on March 2 that Turkey will strike the YPG if the latter does not withdraw from Manbij, which was promised to Turkey several times by the U.S. over the past months. Turkish authorities had welcomed the Russian statement that the Assad regime would take the control of Manbij, with Prime Minister BinaliYıldırım saying that Ankara was content over the regime replacing the PYD in Manbij.