Turkish military trucks transport armoured vehiciles to reinforce units on the Syrian border in the Sanliurfa area on Tuesday. Photo: AFP/DHA
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The ruling Kurdish party in Rojava, northern Syria has condemned Turkish attacks on its Afrin canton and told the international community that they have an obligation to the civilian population.
“We call on the United Nations Security Council to take action as soon as possible in order to secure the west and east [sides] of the Euphrates River in North Syria,” read a statement from the Democratic Union Party (PYD) on Wednesday.
“We also call upon international forces, civil society organizations, and human rights organizations to fulfill their responsibilities to one million people in Afrin,” the statement added.
The party also issued a call for support from “all Kurdish people in Europe and also democratic forces to send the voice of Afrin to the world so that Afrin is not alone.”
The PYD accused Turkey of gathering “gangs” to fight Rojava and declared that “all cities and villages in Rojava and the north of Syria are ready to stand together to defend themselves.”
It said that the forces of all ethnic groups in northern Syria are ready to defend against Turkey.
Turkey has built up its forces around Rojava’s Afrin canton and threatened a full scale military operation if the Kurdish forces do not withdraw. The Kurdish armed force YPG reports that they shell villages in Afrin on a daily basis. YPG forces have returned fire.
“If the terrorists in Afrin do not surrender, we will destroy it,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared on Saturday.
Ankara believes that the PYD and the armed force YPG are extensions of the PKK, a named terrorist organization. The Syrian Kurdish groups deny the charge.
Turkish leaders have repeatedly said they will not allow the formation of a “terror corridor” on its borders. In August 2016, Turkey launched a military operation in northern Syria to oust ISIS from areas between the Euphrates River and Afrin canton and to prevent Kurdish expansion. Ankara has said it is ready to continue its so-called anti-terror operations in northern Syria.
The United States’ recent confirmation they are creating a 30,000-strong border force with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to secure Rojava borders further outraged Ankara, which has long condemned US support for the Kurdish forces in northern Syria.
These US plans could harm relations between Washington and Ankara, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday.
“I bluntly told Tillerson that the [Kurdish border guard force] situation is very unfortunate and serious,” Cavusoglu said, according to Hurriyet Daily News.
This issue, combined with disputes over the extradition of the alleged mastermind of the attempted coup in 2016, “could threaten our bilateral ties and could lead us down an irreversible route,” he added.
Turkey is skeptical about America’s plans in Syria and so must “take our own precautions,” he said.
Tillerson, in a speech on US policy on Syria at Stanford University on Wednesday, said the American military will remain in Syria to counter ISIS, al-Qaeda, and Iran, Bloomberg reported.
He said they were not in the business of nation-building, but would carry out “stabilization initiatives in liberated areas,” like clearing explosives and restoring basic services.
Turkey’s security council met on Wednesday evening. Speaking after the meeting, government spokesperson Bekir Bozdag said that weapons given to the YPG by the United States in the war against ISIS must be taken back as soon as possible.
Reiterating that Turkey will not allow the creation of “terror corridor” or a “terror army,” Bozdag said, “No one should expect Turkey to show patience anymore.”
The security council recommended the government extend its state of emergency for another three months, citing threats from ISIS, the PKK, and YPG, among others.
Turkey has complained that NATO has not taken any action on what they said is a move to create a border force from terror organization.
Turkey “will not allow an extension of the PKK to be given support and armed under the guise of being an ‘operational partner,’” Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar said at a NATO meeting in Brussels on Tuesday.
Turkish media reported that NATO’s Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller will visit Turkey next week. This has not been confirmed yet by NATO.
Erdogan has said that the military alliance is “duty-bound to take a stand with your partners in the event of any border aggression.”