ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A senior official of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has said that the group is prepared to defend itself after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan renewed threats on Saturday to invade northeastern Syria as soon as “today or tomorrow.”
“SDF is committed to the security mechanism framework and has been taking necessary steps to preserve stability in the region,” wrote Mustafa Bali, the head of the forces’ press office, in a statement released on social media.
The SDF, he continued, is committed to the border security agreement made between Washington and Ankara in August, “however we will not hesitate to turn any unprovoked attack by Turkey into an all-out war on the entire border to DEFEND ourselves and our people.”
#SDF is committed to the security mechanism framework and has been taking necessary steps to preserve stability in the region. However we will not hesitate to turn any unprovoked attack by Turkey into an all-out war on the entire border to DEFEND ourselves and our people.— Mustafa Bali (@mustefabali) October 5, 2019
Speaking at the opening of his Justice and Development Party’s annual gathering on Saturday in Ankara, Erdogan claimed that the Turkish-US joint air and ground patrols carried out northeast Syria within the framework of the security agreement were not working.
“We have been patient enough,” the president said, according to a report of the pro-Turkish government news agency Anadolu.
“We have completed our preparations and action plan, the necessary instructions were given,” he continued. “It is maybe today or tomorrow the time to clear the way for [our] peace efforts which is set and the process for them was started. We will carry out a ground and air operation.”
Later on Saturday, a spokesman for the US-led coalition to defeat the Islamic State (CJTF-OIR) tweeted, “Air and ground patrols demonstrate our continued commitment to address Turkey's legitimate security concerns, while also allowing the @CJTFOIR and our SDF partners to focus on crushing ISIS remnants.”
Turkey-Syria Border: Air and ground patrols demonstrate our continued commitment to address Turkey's legitimate security concerns, while also allowing the @CJTFOIR and our SDF partners to focus on crushing ISIS remnants. #DefeatDaesh https://t.co/VgY8Ss2n2h— OIR Spokesman Col. Myles B. Caggins III (@OIRSpox) October 5, 2019
In response to Erdogan’s earlier threats, the SDF’s coordination and military operation center said in a statement on Friday that the group had “given so many concessions and relied on our US and Coalition partners to keep peace for our people, so we can keep fighting ISIS.”
“Diplomacy should always be before war. Erdogan's continuous threat of military action shows they always mean war. We are no external threat to Turkey, but we will defend the people of northeast Syria and preserve Syrian territory,” continued the SDF, warning that Turkey’s threats could “undo” all the progress so far in the fight against the Islamic State.
“The world must not forget the serious problem of ISIS remains. We still fight Daesh [ISIS] every day. The SDF guard 12000 ISIS terrorists in dozens of prisons and over 70,000 ISIS families in Al-Hol and other camps.”
Ilham Ahmed, co-chair of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), told Kurdistan 24 on Thursday in Washington that the SDC truly wants “real” negotiations with Turkey.
Read More: SDC: New stage in Syria after defeat of ISIS
She called on the international community to press Ankara to enter into direct negotiations, stressing that the SDC had “the capability and strength” to conduct such talks and could deliver on any commitments it might make.
Nonetheless, as she noted, “Turkey is still escalating,” although “we had hoped for the opposite.”
Editing by John J. Catherine