ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Kurdish officials said on Tuesday that the current situation in Syrian areas under Turkish control do not provide a good governance model for the whole northeast of Syria.
The comments came just as Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu was about to meet with his US counterpart Mike Pompeo that day in Washington for discussions that would most likely include ongoing US support for Syria’s Kurds.
The Turkish FM on Saturday said that such support for the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) was a “big mistake.”
Turkish-backed rebel forces and the Turkish army have taken over large tracts of territory in northern Syria since August 2016 when it launched Operation Euphrates Shield in northern Aleppo. In March, Turkey took over Afrin and there has been a Turkish military presence in Idlib since October 2017.
Turkey has said it wants the US to clear the YPG from Manbij and then export the same model to the rest of eastern Euphrates as well, arguing that the YPG is not popular in Arab majority regions. The YPG, however, said its forces have already left Manbij.
Recently, there was heavy infighting between groups supported by Turkey in Afrin, in which 25 were killed.
According to a UN report published in July, “civilians now living in areas under the control of Turkish forces and affiliated armed groups continue to face hardships, which in some instances may amount to violations of international humanitarian law.”
Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) Spokesperson Amjad Othman told Kurdistan 24 that it would not be a good idea to bring the chaos of areas under Turkish control to the rest of northeast Syria.
“Turkey has not yet been able to achieve any democratic model in the areas it has taken over in Syria, and the factions of Turkey are still fighting among themselves,” he said.
“Also, looting, theft, kidnapping and displacement of Kurds from their homes in Afrin is still ongoing. It is clear that Turkey wants to spread this failure in the northeast of Syria,” said the spokesperson. “Turkey is able to occupy Syrian territories and change its demography due to Western silence.”
“Now Turkey is trying to convince the US to export this failed model to the rest of northeast Syria, while the reality shows that this is clearly no solution and an annexation of Syrian territory to Turkey. Turkey is damaging the unity of Syria, and is trying to partition Syria, which goes against the US policy of supporting a united Syria.”
Othman concluded, “This is a real test of the international community and its credibility towards the most important group of Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces that defeated ISIS in Raqqa and now are still engaged in a fight against ISIS near Hajin.”
PYD official Sihanok Dibo told Kurdistan 24 that Turkey cannot be trusted on security, as it was the first country to oppose sanctions on Iran.
He argued that a no-fly zone should be created in the northeast of Syria and that the local self-administration should be recognized by the international community, instead of working with Turkey.
“The first step would be to include the SDC in negotiations and be represented in the constitutional committee,” he said.
According to Sarah Stern, founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), the Syrian Kurds should be supported, but she said that there is a “big risk“ that the US would make concessions to Turkey after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October.
This, she said, was despite Turkey’s own abysmal record on the jailing of journalists and the fact that some in the US forget, “that the Erdogan regime is ruthless.”
“The Syrian Kurds fought valiantly, they shed their blood, and we defeated ISIS very much because of them," she said. "They created a sanctuary in northeast Syria that was a habitat for religious minorities and a real object and case study of democracy and liberalism in the Middle East and egalitarianism among women and men."
She continued, saying it "would be terrible for America to give concessions to Turkey. Many people have fled to the east of Euphrates” from Afrin “because they need to survive.”
Therefore, she said, she hopes the US will not make concessions on Manbij, since the Turkish model for the northeast of Syria “is a disgusting model, and its the exact antithesis of anything good.”
Editing by John J. Catherine