The United States government expressed its concerns after the Turkish air force killed 20 fighters of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in air strikes in northeastern Syria on Tuesday and made clear that the US will continue to support the SDF forces, that include the YPG, to take Raqqa city from ISIS.
“The point we made to Turkey and I’m making now is that Turkey cannot pursue that fight at the expense of our common fight against the terrorists that threaten us all, and that obviously means ISIS,” said Mark C. Toner, the deputy spokesperson of the US State Department.
“So we’ve conveyed this to Turkey. This is part of our ongoing dialogue with them. Again, we recognize their concerns about the PKK, but these kinds of actions, frankly, harm the coalition’s efforts to go after ISIS and, frankly, harm our partners on the ground, who are conducting that fight,” he added.
“This is an effort that we’ve been making with Turkey both to address their concerns – and I recognize that there are concerns about PKK, legitimate concerns about the PKK – but also to coordinate on the ground,” he stated.
“Everyone in this fight is there to defeat ISIS. Everyone recognizes that it’s a very complex battlespace. There are different groups, different ethnic groups. That includes Kurds. It also includes Syrian Arabs, Syrian Turkmen, other ethnicities who are, we believe, strong partners in the fight to defeat ISIS,” he said about the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
“We’re going to continue partnering with these groups, and I think the effort going forward is going to be to make clear to Turkey that it’s in their interests, it’s in all of our interests, to focus on defeating ISIS,” Toner said.
Moreover, he added that the US has also been clear to some of these groups as they liberate territory that there needs to be a return to local governance. “That the local groups or the local ethnicities who were driven out from these towns and cities be able to return and feel safe in returning. And so this is a conversation we’re having with all of the actors on the battlefield. It’s complex, it’s difficult, but it’s something we’re working at,” he stated.
“One is it’s important to note that the composition of the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is this conglomeration of different groups fighting on the ground, that force currently operating to isolate Raqqa is, I think, approximately 75 percent Syrian Arab and is fairly consistent demographically with what you’d find in that area,” he added.
“And that’s what I was – the point I was trying to make earlier, that a fundamental guiding principle of this campaign is for the force used to liberate an area, that that force be consistent with what you’d find locally in that area. So for Raqqa, that includes Syrian Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Christians, and others,” he added.
“And so the Syrian Democratic Forces are, by their very nature, a multiethnic and multisectarian organization, and that’s, frankly, one of the reasons why we’re working with them. The other reason is that they’re very effective and very brave and courageous in going after ISIS. So – and as I said, operations – as operations continue, locals are returning to establish control and governance in their home areas while local Arab fighters continue to join the SDF’s or the Syrian Democratic Force’s ranks,” he added.
“So we’re going to continue to work with Turkey to de-conflict and address their concerns about these forces, but it’s our assessment that these forces reflect the multiethnic character of those areas,” he concluded.
On Tuesday, the Turkish army hit 39 positions of the YPG and the PKK in Syria and Iraq.
The official spokesman of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units, Redur Xelil, said that 20 of their fighters were killed and 18 injured by the Turkish airstrikes.
Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News
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