Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar is in Brussels for a NATO meeting. File photo: AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Turkey is taking its case against the United States’ formation of a border force in northern Syria to NATO.
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.
He said that fighting the PKK, and the Kurdish groups in northern Syria PYD and YPG, is “just as important” as fighting ISIS, Hurriyet Daily News reported.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivered a similar message to the secretary general of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, telling him in a phone call on Tuesday that Turkey will not accept an SDF force in Syria and will take all necessary measures to protect its own security, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
Ankara is outraged over the United States’ confirmation they are creating a 30,000-strong border force with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to secure the Rojava borders.
Erdogan has slammed the military alliance for not taking action. “Hey NATO! You are duty-bound to take a stand with your partners in the event of any border aggression,” he said in a recent speech to his party.
“Until now, what position have you taken?” he demanded to know.
He said he had not considered calling US President Donald Trump to attempt to resolve the matter. “As long as he does not turn to me, I won’t turn to him,” he said.
According to Anadolu, Stoltenberg told Erdogan that NATO was not consulted on the creation of the border force.
Erdogan has said that the new border force is a threat to Turkey and justifies a military offensive in Syria.
Turkey has built up its forces on the Syrian border near Afrin canton in northwestern Rojava, northern Syria, where they clashed with Kurdish forces for a fourth consecutive day on Monday night, causing material damage, according to local ANHA news. The YPG responded, the media outlet with ties to the force reported.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Turkey will “protect our own borders,” asking if the responsibility for protecting NATO’s borders was being left to “terror groups,” during a speech in Ankara, Anadolu reported.
Erdogan said that they may coordinate with Syrian opposition groups on the ground in an Afrin offensive, as they did in their Euphrates Shield operation in 2016. “This fight is for them. We are helping our brothers there so that they can protect their own territories,” he said on Tuesday
The US-led anti-ISIS coalition, an ally of the Kurdish forces in the war against ISIS in northern Syria, has said that the canton of Afrin does not fall within the scope of their operations.
“The Coalition does not operate in Afrin, Syria,” the press office of the global anti-ISIS coalition told Rudaw English by email.
When Syrian militias allied with Turkey clashed with the SDF in the Manbij area in early 2017, the United States responded with “deliberate” and public deployment of forces to the area in order to “deter aggression” against their allies.
Later that year, Russia sent some of its Military Police to maintain a deconfliction zone and prevent clashes between the Turkish-backed forces and the Kurdish force near Afrin canton and al-Shahba province, north of Aleppo.
Asked what is Russia’s position on the latest clashes in the Afrin area, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday that they are “working for a full compliance with the ceasefire agreements” and that Kurdish interests “should be taken into account.”