Damascus Confirms Talks With Kurds Intensified Due to Threats by Turkey

Marsha Scott
January 14, 2019

The U.S. -led military coalition in Syria started the process of withdrawing troops from the embattled region, a U.S. military official said Friday.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu went so far on Wednesday as to say that if the USA withdrawal from Syria was delayed, "then we will put this decision into practice", suggesting Turkey could go after the Kurds in short order.

The U.S. has started "the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria", Col. Sean Ryan, a spokesman for the coalition fighting the Islamic State group, told the Associated Press without further elaboration.

The Turkish government has said Kurdish fighters are linked to a group that has been mounting an insurgency against the Turkish state for decades.

Senior U.S. officials and lawmakers have called on Trump to not abandon the PYD/YPG as he pulls out of Syria.

"Equipment, not troops", a defense official told VOA on Friday, describing the initial stages of the pullout.

But shortly after, other witnesses on the ground in Syria reported seeing an influx of Western troops and equipment to parts of Aleppo province in northern Syria.

Under the current regional circumstances - including the potential U.S. pullout from northern Syria and Turkey's threats to launch a military operation - the Kurdish fighters have little leverage and will have to reduce their demands, according to Ibrahim Kaban, a researcher at the Kurdish Center for Studies based in Germany.

There are 2,000 US troops in Syria and while the military has orders to follow the president's decision to withdraw, they have no timelines attached for how long it will take.

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Pompeo said on Friday that Washington recognised "the Turkish people's right and (Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan's right to defend their country from terrorists".

Turkey had rejected the US claim that the Syrian Kurds were represented by the YPG, which Ankara sees as a terrorist organization. Syria's assistance has allowed 400 fighters from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) to withdraw from the area.

"The Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke to Pompeo about the latest developments in Syria", said a brief statement from Turkey's foreign ministry.

U.S. national security adviser John Bolton suggested on Tuesday that protecting Washington's Kurdish allies would be a precondition of the USA withdrawal.

He added Pompeo also stressed the importance that the USA places on the protection of forces, namely PYD/YPG, the Syrian offshoot of PKK terror organization.

The speech sought to lay out the Trump administration's strategy for the Middle East and criticised former president Barack Obama, without naming him, for "fundamental misunderstandings" about the Middle East.

Turkey sees the Kurdish YPG militia close to its border as a security threat.

Turkey already occupies and effectively runs local affairs in vast territories in northwestern Syria, including Afrin which came under an intense Turkish military campaign past year that resulted in thousands of deaths and displacement of some 160,000 locals as Erdogan promised to give the region back to the "rightful owners, Arabs".

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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