Turkey awaits Russian permission for aerial campaign on Afrin Kurds

Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK), a small legal Kurdish party in Turkey, called on Kurds worldwide to “unite” as one voice in opposing any Turkish assault on Afrin.
author_image Ari Khalidi

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Any Turkish military action against the Kurdish region of Afrin in northern Syria cannot be done without “coordination” with Russia, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday.

“We are talking with both Russia and Iran regarding the issue of airspace. The Russians must not oppose the Afrin operation,” Cavusoglu told the privately-owned CNN Turk TV.

Turkey currently cannot scramble warplanes to target the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Afrin, northwest of Syria, where Russians keep troops on the ground and planes patrolling the country’s airspace.

Cavusoglu’s remarks revealed Moscow to be the primary deterrent so far in front of oft-repeated threats of an invasion of the isolated Kurdish enclave by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s administration.

Meanwhile, Turkish General Chief of Staff Hulusi Akara and Erdogan’s spy chief Hakan Fidan traveled to Moscow where they held meetings with their Russian counterparts.

YPG’s most significant military supplier and chief ally, the US, does not have a presence in Afrin, though latest announcements by American army officials regarding the building of a Kurdish-led border force have added to Turkey’s fury.

“[I hope] we do not have to bury those with terrorists,” an angered Erdogan said last week, appearing to threaten US forces embedded with the YPG at bases in the main chunk of Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava) stretching from the town Manbij west of the River Euphrates to the border with the Kurdistan Region.

For the first time in years, Erdogan even gave a date, saying an invasion was imminent and could take place in no more than a week, though his army’s movements have so far remained restricted to increased reinforcements of troops and daily mortar attacks on alleged YPG positions.

His spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin defended his country’s plans against Afrin, claiming an operation was not against the Kurds “but terrorists.”

Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK), a small legal Kurdish party in Turkey, called on Kurds worldwide to “unite” as one voice in opposing any Turkish assault on Afrin.

“We strongly condemn this policy of aggression. This attempt of invasion has to stop in no time,” PAK’s leader Mustafa Ozcelik said in a press release.

“The Turkish state cannot stand Kurds’ getting any rights, liberties, or a political status anywhere in the world,” Ozcelik continued.

He said the attempt to invade Afrin, Ankara’s expressed support for the [Iranian-backed Iraqi] Hashd Shaabi’s occupation of Kirkuk in October 2017, and the continued state of emergency in Turkey itself were all aimed at “destroying” Kurdish gains.

“We call on the international community, particularly the United States and Russia, to take a stance against the Turkish state’s assaults [on Afrin] and stand by the Kurdish people’s right to gain its national democratic rights,” the PAK statement read.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany