Turkey to retaliate against YPG fire from Syria: Deputy PM Kurtulmuş
Turkey will retaliate against any cross-border gunfire from the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia in Syria and will not remain silent in the face of anti-Turkey activities by terrorist groups abroad, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş said on June 29.
Kurtulmuş was speaking to reporters after Turkish artillery destroyed YPG targets when the group’s fighters opened fire on Turkey-backed forces in northern Syria on June 27 night.
He also reiterated Ankara’s opposition to the U.S. arming of YPG fighters and said that U.S. officials would understand that this was the “wrong path”.
Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak said the Afrin Canton of the Aleppo Governorate of Syria must be cleared of terrorists, referring to YPG, amid reports that the Turkish army is reinforcing its positions on the border near Afrin.
“In order to stabilize the region, the Afrin region needs to be cleared of terror elements and terrorists. Turkey is continuing to work with its counterparts to achieve this end, with the help of the Foreign Ministry and the National Intelligence Organization [MİT],” Kaynak told reporters in the southern province of Kahramanmaraş late on June 28.
Afrin is one of the three cantons neighboring Turkey under the control of the YPG, the armed wing of the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Ankara considers an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and therefore a terrorist organization. The YPG has long been supported by Russia who has recently deployed more contingencies to Afrin in a bid to display its cooperation with the group in the face of Turkey’s growing unease with the YPG activities along its border.
Kaynak’s statement came at a moment when the Turkish army deployed new artillery units with a 400-kilometer range to the region and retaliated with artillery fire after YPG terrorists opened fire on Turkey-backed forces on June 28.
“Afrin needs to be cleared of terrorists with regard to both Turkey’s security and the region’s security.
Otherwise nobody can guarantee the security of Azez, Mare, al-Bab and Idlib. Turkey’s diplomatic efforts are continuing to this end,” Kaynak said.
Azez, Mare and al-Bab are Syrian provinces that were taken under the control of the Turkish army along with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) through the Euphrates Shield Operation that cleared around 2,000 square kilometers from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) jihadists.
Kaynak also referred to ongoing talks between Turkey, Russia and Iran for the establishment of de-conflicting zones inside Syria at the Astana process.
“Turkey’s idea of establishing security zones will take place accordingly thanks to Astana talks. There is this expectation that the security of the region would be provided by the Turkish Armed Forces,” he said.
Turkey, Russia and Iran have been discussing the details of cementing the ceasefire, especially in the Western part of Syria through de-conflict zones to be jointly controlled by these powers. Turkey and Russia are expected to oversee the Idlib region.