Ankara has denied agreeing to a Washington-brokered truce with Kurdish-led forces in northern Syria fighting so-called Islamic State. On the ground, however, things seem to look rather different.
“We do not accept in any circumstances … a ‘compromise or a ceasefire reached between Turkey and Kurdish elements,'” EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik told state-run Anadolu news agency.
“The Turkish republic is a sovereign, legitimate state,” Celik said, adding Turkey could not be put on an equal footing with a “terrorist organization,” referring to the Kurdish-aligned Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) Protection Units (YPG).
President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, said Turkey would continue striking Kurdish militia until they withdrew from the region where Turkish forces are fighting.
A de facto truce
The US said on Tuesday that Ankara and Kurdish-aligned SDF, both of which are US allies, had agreed to a truce in Syria after deadly clashes at the weekend.
Washington had been alarmed by Turkey’s 7-day incursion into Syria, saying it was “unacceptable” for a NATO ally to hit militias loyal to the SDF, which are supported by Washington against “Islamic State.”
Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield on August 24 to clear the border area of jihadists and halt the westward advance of SDF, which Ankara considers a “terrorist” group.
After driving the Kurdish-backed fighters south away from the flashpoint border town of Jarabulus, the Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel allies fought IS jihadists to the town’s west, Turkish media said on Tuesday.
Fighting on two fronts
Turkey, which is battling a decades-long Kurdish insurgency at home, fears Kurdish-aligned forces will capture areas previously held by Islamic State, giving them control of an unbroken swathe of territory running along the Turkish border. Ankara fears that, if Kurdish militia control the area along Turkey’s southern border with Syria, it could embolden the Kurdish militant PKK group, which is demanding autonomy on Turkish soil.
Russia has also called on Ankara to halt strikes in Syria on opposition and ethnic groups – including Kurds fighting against IS, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a news briefing on Wednesday.
Stepping up attacks on IS
Meanwhile, Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel allies are reportedly stepping up attacks on Islamic State, while easing its bombardment of Kurdish-backed positions since Monday.
Meanwhile, IS’s top strategist, Abu Mohamed al-Adnani, was reportedly killed on Tuesday in a US-led coalition air strike in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo.
jbh/kms (AFP, Reuters)