Syrian regime, YPG negotiated for Afrin but could not strike deal: Turkish Deputy PM
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ on Feb. 22 said the Syrian regime and the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) had “negotiated” for the northwestern Syrian district of Afrin but “could not strike a deal.”
“There is intelligence that dirty negotiations have been conducted between the Syrian regime and the YPG in the Afrin region, but there is also information that they could not strike a deal. It has not been verified that the regime will place official troops in the Afrin region,” Bozdağ told state-run Anadolu Agency in Ankara.
Bozdağ’s response came after the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported on Feb. 19 that pro-regime “Popular Forces” would enter Afrin, where Turkey’s military is carrying out an operation to clear the area of YPG militants, which Ankara sees as terrorists for the group’s links to the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK).
The reports prompted debate on a potential YPG-Syrian regime deal, as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced on Feb. 20 that a group of vehicles trying to enter the district had been forced to retreat.
Presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın on Feb. 20 said reports about the Syrian regime and the YPG striking a deal were “propaganda.”
“It is clear that the reports about the regime striking a deal with the YPG have propaganda purposes. However, it does not mean there has not been a set of dirty and secret negotiations,” Kalın said in a tweet via his official Twitter account.
The YPG is said to have held talks with the Syrian regime after more than 70 different strategic areas were captured as a result of Turkey’s “Operation Olive Branch.”
“If the regime disguised as the YPG enter the region, then they will be the target. If militants enter, they will not be discriminated against. Whoever fights the Turkish Army alongside those terrorist organizations are a target for us,” Bozdağ said.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also stressed Turkey’s determination to clear YPG forces from the region on Feb. 22, saying “we will not tolerate anybody who wants to come here to protect the PKK-YPG.”
Turkish media outlets and Turkish politicians frequently use the term “PKK-YPG” when referring to the YPG to emphasize the connection between the two groups.
“Some reports have focused on whether pro-Syrian regime forces have entered the region or not. Our stance is clear. We do not stand against anybody who comes to fight DAESH-PKK-YPG. Terror is our joint enemy,” Çavuşoğlu said in a joint press conference with his Algerian counterpart Abdulkadir Mesahil. DAESH is the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levent (ISIL).
“A convoy of 5-10 vehicles approached, and the necessary steps were taken,” he said.
“Whether militant group or state actor, those who try to support terrorist organizations are the same as the PKK-YPG for us, and we will act accordingly,” he added.