No Turkish shelling of PYD since truce: Official
ISTANBUL - Agence France-Presse
DHA photoTurkey has not shelled any positions held by the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) inside Syria since a ceasefire was implemented last week, a Turkish official said on March 3.
Since mid-February, Turkish howitzers stationed just inside the border had on successive days shelled targets of PYD and its armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), inside Syria, with the military saying it was responding to incoming fire.
“We did not target the PYD since the cessation of hostilities,” said the official, who asked not be named.
But he confirmed reports that Turkey had on Feb. 28 shelled Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) jihadists in Syria, with six targets hit a total of 41 times.
The ceasefire, which went into effect at midnight on Feb. 28, does not apply to ISIL or Al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front.
The official said Turkey “wants this ceasefire to work” but was “anxious” to see if there would be violations by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and its Russian allies.
The issue of the Syrian Kurds had caused a rare rift between Ankara and Washington, which regards the YPG as an effective fighting force on the ground against ISIL jihadists and has resisted Turkish pressure to classify the group as a terror organization.
Meanwhile, on March 2, the U.S. called on the PYD in Syria to not support the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Turkey.
Addressing Turkish concerns about links between the PYD and its armed wing YPG, and the PKK, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said Turkey’s cooperation was “vital” in Syria.
“Turkey is one of our closest allies. Its collaboration in dealing with the crisis in Syria is absolutely vital and we are indeed working very closely together with it,” Blinken said in a news conference at the U.N.
“It is also not a secret that Turkey has expressed concerns about some of the Syrian Kurdish groups in northern Syria, including the PYD. We have made it very clear to the PYD that any actions it takes to either support the PKK or to engage the other opposition groups are profoundly problematic and we look to the PYD to act responsibly and to focus its efforts on the fight against Daesh [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant],” he added.
The PKK, with which Turkey has been in armed clashes since the mid-1980s, is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU.
Turkey also considers the PYD and its YPG military branch to be terror groups, but the West has refused to designate them as such.
The difference in the designation of the PYD and YPG has caused a rift between the two NATO allies.