European Union top diplomat 'worried' over Turkish operation in Syria

Former Turkish foreign minister Yasar Yakis believes an accommodation over the Kurdish question in Syria is a possible area of convergence between the USA and Russian Federation - if political and military developments do not get out of control.

The situation in Syria has become particularly tense in the wake of the launch of the Olive Branch operation.

Turkish PM Binali Yildirim told journalists on Sunday that the operation aims to create a 30-kilometer "secure zone" within Syrian territory.

The operation was being carried out under the framework of Turkey's rights based on global law, UN Security Council's decisions, self-defense rights under the UN charter and respect to Syria's territorial integrity, it said.

The key US question about Turkey's offensive in northwestern Syria is whether Ankara pushes on from Afrin to Manbij, where USA forces and their allies against the Islamic State militant group are on the ground, USA officials said on Monday. Ankara "tried to draw attention of its ally, [telling the Americans] "You should not arm and train and provide ammunition to a terrorist group"," Yakis said, referring to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) viewed by Ankara as a terrorist group. Two major U.S. allies are in open conflict.

A main goal of the military operation was to recapture Tel Rifaat, a town southeast of Afrin, and a string of Arab villages the YPG captured from rebels in February 2016, driving out tens of thousands of inhabitants, Abdul Rahim said.

Turkish police also detained 24 people for "spreading terrorist propaganda" on social media related to the operation and the capital city's governor has banned all protests.

U.S. support for the struggle by Kurdish forces to drive Islamic State (ISIS) from northern Syria has always been a thorn in Turkey's side, as has the establishment of an autonomous Kurdish region (Rojava). This has infuriated Ankara and strained its relations with Washington even though the two are North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies.

The plan of sending "border force" to Syrian-Turkish border has angered Turkey. The Syrian Kurds made a political decision that they would not have the ability to properly confront the Islamic State (IS) in northern Syria without an alliance with other minority groups (Assyrians, for instance) - and with the major Sunni tribes in the region (the Shammars, for instance). YPG claimed four of its own militia members were killed over the weekend in the Turkish military operation along with 10 fighters from FSA.

The backstory on the latest conflict within the Syrian war shows that Turkey, Iran, Russia and the Syrian regime are coordinating their actions more than either side is letting on. In fact, Turkey regards the group as a terrorist organization and long ago persuaded the United States and European Union to do the same. Turkey views the YPG-which has received U.S. support elsewhere in Syria-as a terrorist group.

According to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: "Some people misspoke".

The war to defeat the IS at Raqqa, the major city in northern Syria, could not have been conducted by the USA and Russian Federation and their various allies entirely from the air.

Turkey's silencing of voices who speak out against war is in violation of its own laws and obligations under worldwide human rights law.

Regardless, Rubin said Erdogan's offensive into northern Syria may end up being "a big mistake and they could actually lose". Airstrikes could lead to another humanitarian crisis. "Turkey seems to have been obligated to do so after irrational declarations from the United States", said Tulin Daloglu, a Turkish journalist who has strong connections with USA political circles. The two governments have been at odds for years.

  • Zachary Reyes