Russia backs Turkey in Syria against US
Turkey and its NATO ally the U.S. are once again engaged in a low intensity war of words over the Feb. 25 U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire in Syria after the regime bombed civilian areas in Eastern Ghouta. Turkish government officials say the resolution excludes its “anti-terror operation” in the Afrin region, situated near the Turkish-Syrian border, while U.S. officials insist that Ankara should read the resolution “more closely.”
Turkey launched “Operation Olive Branch” on Jan. 20 to clear Syria’s northwestern Afrin district of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the U.S.’s on-the-ground partner in Syria against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Ankara sees the YPG as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which both Turkey and the U.S. have designated as a terrorist organization.
As the U.S. push Turkey to stop attacking the YPG in Afrin, U.N. Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock on Feb. 28 said the following: “We are receiving reports of civilian deaths and injuries, and restriction on movement for many civilians as a result of military operations in Afrin. Those who risk moving continue to be stopped at exit points by local authorities in Afrin, preventing them from accessing safer areas. So far, around 5,000 people we think have reached surrounding villages and Aleppo city. Tens of thousands are believed to be displaced within Afrin. The Turkish authorities have emphasized to us their willingness to facilitate humanitarian access. We would like to see aid convoys run from Damascus but that has not thus far been agreed on the Syrian side.”
Interestingly enough, that same day the Russian Security Council spokesperson Alexander Venediktov said the U.S. had “forced” Turkey to stage a military operation in Afrin by supplying advanced weaponry to the YPG and setting up around 20 military bases in Syrian territory controlled by the YPG.
Officials from both countries are expected to meet on March 8-9 in Washington DC to work on disagreements, as agreed during U.S. State Secretary Rex Tillerson’s meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on March 16 in Ankara. Meanwhile, a U.S. official, who asked not to be named, told Hürriyet Daily News’ Serkan Demirtaş on March 1 that the U.S. was not imposing delays on Turkey regarding Syria and confirmed that U.S.’s ally in the region was Turkey, not the YPG.
This is the complicated picture in which Russia emerges as backing NATO member Turkey’s anti-terror fight against NATO’s biggest member, the U.S., which claims that the YPG was needed to fight another terrorist group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), while it should have been the other way around: Turkey and the U.S. were supposed to form an alliance of solidarity against Russia and terrorism.