Ankara proposes Arabs’ collaboration for Raqqa

Ankara proposes Arabs’ collaboration for Raqqa

Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
Ankara proposes Arabs’ collaboration for Raqqa

AA photo

Turkey has proposed using a collaboration of Arab elements from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Free Syrian Army (FSA) in an offensive on Raqqa and the administration of the Manbij region in Syria, a formula which would exclude the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
“The Arab elements of the SDF should learn to cooperate with the Free Syrian Army. We want the Arab elements of the SDF and the FSA to establish a joint administration in Manbij. These Arabs should act together in a military offensive towards Raqqa, too,” a senior Turkish official told Hürriyet Daily News.

The official said the U.S. did not object to the proposal, but stressed the outcome of the practice should be seen on the ground. “Disintegration” within the SDF was inevitable, since Arab elements approached the group out of “desperation,” the official said. “They go towards where they feel secure, comfortable, where they can meet their needs. If they achieve these with the FSA, they will work with them,” the official added.

Meanwhile, the Mosul and Raqqa offensives were on the agenda of talks with of U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken in Ankara on Sept. 28.

Ankara once more told Blinken it would not be part of the operation if YPG forces took part in the offensive. Ankara told the U.S. official that Raqqa was an Arab town and an offensive with 8000 Kurdish fighters into the town carried the risk of inflaming an ethnic fight, according to the official.

Turkey and FSA work to establish hold force before al-Bab operation

As part of the visit by the U.S. delegation chaired by Blinken to Ankara, the official said the first “military-to-military” talks regarding planned military operations on Syria’s Raqqa and Iraq’s Mosul against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) were launched. Turkey had not ruled out providing aerial or land support for the Raqqa offensive, the official said, adding both Turkey and the U.S. would continue to exchange views for further coordination. 

The official noted they would not “hurry up” Operation Euphrates Shield’s military action in the Syrian city of al-Bab, an ISIL stronghold 40 kilometers south of the Turkish border, adding the FSA was working to establish a hold force in areas cleared of ISIL in the region. 

“The Euphrates Shield operation will continue as long as needed,” the official said. When reminded of remarks by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu that the military intervention in Syria could continue for “seven or eight years,” the official said, “It will continue for as long as needed.”

Turkey awaits operation plans for Mosul

Operation plans for Mosul have not been drawn up, according to the Turkish official, who noted that Ankara would take a position on its military contribution to the upcoming Mosul offensive after those plans became clear.

In talks with the U.S., Turkey underlined that the “proper composition of Iraqi forces” during a military action on Mosul was needed to not incise the current sectorial problems in Iraq. Ankara and Washington will continue to discuss “establishing a hold force in Mosul,” the official noted.

Turkey would also watch “its local partners’ interests” during a Mosul offensive, added the Turkish official.  

Iran wants truce for Shia villages in Syria 

During an unscheduled visit by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to Ankara on Sept. 28, a cease-fire to deliver humanitarian aid was discussed. Iran wants a cease-fire for the delivery of humanitarian aid in Syria “since there are Shia villages that are besieged,” the official said, adding that Tehran could convince Russia and the Syrian regime to this end.