Syria Kurdish official says Turkey-US deal may mark 'new approach'

Syria Kurdish official says Turkey-US deal may mark 'new approach'
3 min read
08 August, 2019
A US-Turkish agreement to establish a joint operations centre for the north was welcomed by a top Syrian Kurdish official, though Damascus rejected the proposal.
The proposal was rejected by Damascus [Getty]
A leading Syrian Kurdish official gave a guarded welcome on Thursday to a US-Turkish agreement to establish a joint operations centre for the north, but the deal was rejected by Damascus.

"This deal may mark the start of a new approach but we still need more details," Aldar Khalil told AFP.

"We will evaluate the agreement based on details and facts, not headlines."

Just moments later, Damascus said it rejects a US-Turkish plan to establish a buffer zone in northern Syria, blaming Syria's Kurds for the proposal, state media said.

"Syria categorically and blatantly rejects the agreement between the American and Turkish occupiers on the establishment of a so-called safe zone" in northern Syria, a foreign ministry source told state news agency SANA.

"Syria's Kurds who have accepted to become a tool in this aggressive US-Turkish project bear a historical responsibility" the source added, urging Kurdish groups to return to the fold. 

Turkish and US officials agreed on Wednesday to establish a joint operations centre to oversee the creation of a safe zone to manage tensions between Ankara and US-backed Kurdish forces in Syria.

No details were provided on the size or nature of the safe zone, but the deal appeared to provide some breathing room after Turkey had threatened an imminent attack on the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which control a large swathe of northern Syria.

Damascus said the planned zone "serves Turkey's expansionist ambitions," accusing both Ankara and Washington of violating its sovereignty. 

The YPG has been a key US ally in the fight against the Islamic State group.

But Ankara views it as a "terrorist" offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has fought a bloody insurgency inside Turkey for the past 35 years.

As the fight against IS winds down in northeastern Syria, the prospect of a US military withdrawal has stoked Kurdish fears of a long threatened Turkish attack.

Read more: Elusive US-Turkey deal over Syrian safe zone complicated by S-400 crisis

In recent weeks, Turkish media have repeatedly shown images of military convoys heading for the border area, carrying equipment and fighting units.

Turkey has already carried out two cross-border offensives into Syria, including one in 2018 that saw it and allied Syria rebels overrun the majority Kurdish Afrin enclave in the northwest.

The US said on Tuesday that it would prevent an "unacceptable" offensive by Turkey to remove a Kurdish militia from northern Syria.

Defence Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday said that such a unilateral attack on the US-backed YPG , forewarned again on Sunday by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, would be "unacceptable".

Speaking to reporters during a trip through Asia, the Pentagon chief said US officials were trying to come to an "arrangement" that would address Turkish concerns but prevent a unilateral incursion into the Kurdish-administrated territory.

"Clearly we believe any unilateral action by them would be unacceptable," Esper said.

"And so what we are trying to do now is work out with them an arrangement to address their concerns and I am hopeful we will get there... what we are trying to do is prevent unilateral incursions."

Washington has backed the YPG as the main fighting force against the Islamic State group in Syria.

Agencies contributed to this report.

Follow us on Twitter: @The_NewArab