US reiterates warning to Turkey against attacking Rojava, as concern grows over UN aid program for Idlib
WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – For the third time in as many weeks, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price warned Turkey against attacking the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northeast Syria.
Although the US had twice warned Turkey before about any new assault on northern Syria, as did Moscow, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, nonetheless, reaffirmed his intent on Sunday to launch a major cross-border attack.
“We will address security concerns with new operations,” Erdogan told a conference of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Sunday.
And, late on Monday, Turkish forces bombed several villages near the frontlines in the countryside north and west of Manbij, North Press Agency reported.
Asked about Erdogan’s latest threats, Price noted his previous statements.
“We have emphasized that we remain deeply concerned about discussions of potential increased military activity in northern Syria,” Price said, “and in particular, its potential impact on the civilian population there.”
“We have continued to call for the maintenance of existing ceasefire lines,” he added, and “we would condemn any escalation beyond those lines.”
“Any new escalation beyond those existing ceasefire lines could prove to be especially costly setbacks,” Price continued, “to our collective efforts to counter Daesh” and “to our efforts to promote political stability within Syria.”
Fate of Aid through Bab al-Hawa Crossing Unclear
The United Nations provides humanitarian aid to the civilian population of rebel-held Idlib province. That population consists of some 3.5 million people, two million of whom are internally displaced Syrians.
The UN assistance passes through a frontier post known as Bab al-Hawa, and its humanitarian aid program must be renewed regularly by a vote of the Security Council.
Russia, a close ally of the Syrian regime, is suggesting that aid for Idlib province should come from Damascus rather than Turkey. It is feared that Russia will veto authorization for the program if its new terms are not met when the program comes up for renewal in the Security Council on July 10.
Asked about that, Price stressed the importance of the Bab al-Hawa crossing. It “facilitates much needed, desperately needed, humanitarian support for the Syrian people,” he said.
“The United States” and “many of our allies and partners around the world believe that we should not allow the profound differences we have with Russia,” Price continued, “to stand in the way of humanitarian assistance to make it to the people of Syria.”
“This is not something that should be treated as a bargaining chip,” he affirmed.
Lavrov arrives in Turkey on June 8
Turkey is playing a key role in the Ukraine crisis. That provides the country significantly enhanced leverage, and Erdogan has been exploiting it, as Kurdistan 24 reported already two weeks ago.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrives in Turkey on June 8. Ukraine will be the main topic of discussion. That will include developing a procedure to export the large quantities of Ukrainian grain—20 million tons—that Russia is blockading in the Black Sea.
In addition, since Turkey maintains reasonably good relations with both Kiev and Moscow, it has offered to host negotiations. There is little indication that either side is yet interested in talking about a ceasefire, but Lavrov may provide some general insights into Moscow’s thinking about the matter.
Moreover, key issues regarding Syria are also bound to arise during Lavrov’s talks in Turkey.