ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Current turmoil in both Iraq and Syria led the discussion in a meeting on Wednesday between Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leader Masoud Barzani and French Consul General in Erbil Olivier Decottignies.
While being hosted by Barzani at KDP headquarters outside Erbil, Decottignes took part in an in-depth exchange about the political progress in the region and political development in Iraq, but predominantly spoke to the Kurdish leader about the prospect and likely ramifications of intense conflict in northern Syria.
Tensions rose after a White House statement made late on Sunday explained that American forces would withdraw from areas in northern Syria where Turkey has said it would launch a long-threatened military operation to create a “safe zone” along the border.
On Wednesday afternoon, Turkish warplanes and artillery began shelling Syria’s predominantly Kurdish northeastern town of Serekaniye, according to a spokesperson from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
A source in Serekaniye told Kurdistan 24 that four warplanes were hovering over the town and that heavy artillery had been fired at surrounding areas. According to local media, Turkish warplanes have bombarded Safeh village, located five kilometers on the western outskirts of Serekaniye. It added that Turkish artillery shelled the main streets of Mahatta and Malla Darwish in the town.
Additional reports have claimed that Turkish warplanes began bombarding Ain Issa, north of Raqqa, as well as shelling in the town of Tal Abyad. Local media said that Turkish artillery has struck silos in the eastern outskirts of Qamishli city. Shells have also hit an SDF police center in Segirka village, three kilometers to the east of Qamishli.
Waves of people have started to leave their homes to flee the Turkish shelling, including some that have fled to the Kurdistan Region.
In Wednesday's meeting, Barzani requested that France, a vital member of the US-led coalition to defeat the Islamic State, play an active role in preventing a humanitarian disaster resulting from such intensified conflict.
The meeting concluded with both sides expressing grave concerns about events now unfolding in Syria and how they could negatively affect the future of the Kurdish people in the embattled nation.
Since 2014, the French government has provided humanitarian, logistical, and military support to the Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi forces in the fight against the Islamic State.
Editing by John J. Catherine