Turkey warns US over ‘Kurdish corridor’ in Syria
Uğur Ergan - ANKARA
AP photoThe Turkish army has expressed concerns to the United States’ top military figure over Syrian Kurdish groups’ attempts to create a “Kurdish corridor” in northern Syria and change the demographic structure of the region to the advantage of Kurds.
The messages were delivered to Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who held talks with Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on Jan 6.
Dunford, the highest-ranking military officer of the U.S., visited U.S. troops stationed in Turkey’s İncirlik Base following talks in Ankara.
Military-to-military talks focused on the joint fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and on developments in Syria and Iraq, as well as other regional issues, daily Hürriyet learned.
One of the most important issues the Turkish army raised was the attempts of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in crossing the Euphrates River and therefore entering the Azaz-Jarablus corridor.
Turkey claims the PYD is an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and, ergo, “terrorists” even though the U.S. and other anti-ISIL coalition members see them as a legitimate political party.
“We are aware of their desires and attempts to establish a Kurdish corridor along the Turkish border by entering the Azaz-Jarablus line. We have declared so many times that Turkey will never accept this,” a security source said.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (QSD), a coalition composed of Kurds, Turkmens, Christians and Arabs, succeeded in seizing control of the strategically important Teshrin Dam on the Euphrates River, but Ankara has complained that 85 percent of the coalition consists of PYD members.
“Turkey is in favor of the protection of the territorial integrity of Syria. We are sensitive on this issue,” a source said about one of the key messages given to Dunford.
PYD commits demographic change
The Turkish army also claimed that intelligence has shown that the PYD is continuing its efforts to change the demographic structure of the region by forcing Arabs and Turkmens to leave the area. “Attempts at demographic change should not be tolerated,” a source said.
Committed in the fight against the ISIL
The two countries’ military teams discussed the ongoing fight against ISIL inside Syria and potential joint operations to be conducted to create an ISIL-free territory along the 98-kilometer strip of the Turkish border, known as the Marea-Jarablus line.
The Turkish Chief of General Staff expressed Turkey’s commitment in the fight against ISIL and said recent measures taken to close the border were explicit proof of this commitment. However, he criticized some anonymous U.S. soldiers for reportedly proposing the deployment of 30,000 Turkish troops along the border to stop infiltrations by ISIL members, describing these ideas as “palliative” and “imaginary.”
The Turkish army suggested that ISIL’s presence in Jarablus could well be defeated through an intensified aerial military campaign.
Russian impact on anti-ISIL fight
The two top soldiers also discussed developments following the downing of a Russian warplane by the Turkish Air Force and its impacts on the joint anti-ISIL operations. Turkey complained about Russian threats of retaliation against Turkish warplanes, which forced Turkey to stop flying over Syria to take part in anti-ISIL fights.