Turkey reveals plan to invade Kurdish Afrin region in Syria

The revelation comes as a series of attacks this week from Turkey targeted the US-allied YPG's positions in Afrin.

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) - A top Turkish government official on Wednesday revealed his country's intentions of invading the Kurdish Afrin Canton in northwestern Syria.

"For Turkey's border security, for the region to stabilize, Afrin should be cleansed from terrorists and terrorist elements," Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak said, adding that it was his 'personal view.'

Turkey regards the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the main ruling party in Syrian Kurdistan, and its US-allied armed wing, the People's Protection Units (YPG), as "terrorists."

Kaynak's remarks, recounted by the government-funded Anadolu Agency, follow a series of attacks this week from Turkey on the US-allied YPG's positions in Afrin.

"The problem is the PKK/PYD's control in Afrin," said Kaynak, reiterating the Turkish view that the PYD is the same organization as the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), the group which has been waging a decades-long guerrilla warfare against Turkish troops for Kurdish self-rule.

He also told reporters that the Russian army's building of a military base in Afrin was also a "problem."

In March, Reuters reported a deal between the Kurds and Russia which stipulated the construction of a base for the latter in Afrin.

Russia, which deployed troops to Afrin in March to keep Turkey and its Islamist proxies at bay, denied the report.

Kaynak further disclosed that the Turkish national intelligence service and foreign ministry were in talks with the Russians "over this matter."

Turkey, Russia, and Iran, the latter two being the Syrian regime's main sponsors, are set to hold a new round of peace talks between President Bashar al-Assad's government and opposition groups in the Kazakh capital of Astana in July.

He referred to a possible deployment of Turkish troops in Syria's Idlib province, currently under the control of al-Qaeda-led Islamists, just south of Afrin, should Turkey and Russia reach an agreement in Astana.

Turkey already controls a large pocket of land in northern Syria since its Euphrates Shield operation alongside the Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels ended in February, successfully denying the YPG a chance to break Afrin's isolation and create a link with the other Kurdish canton of Kobani.

If Turkey did not act against Afrin, Kaynak argued, the security of the towns of Azaz, Maraa, and al-Bab within that stretch of land, as well as that of Idlib, would not be 'guaranteed.'

He added that the Turkish government's Disaster and Emergency Management Directory was building a military base in al-Bab, in between the two Kurdish cantons.

Kurdish forces have stated a Turkish attack on them could disrupt the ongoing US-supported operation to capture the city of Raqqa, de facto capital of the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria.

 

Editing by G.H. Renaud