Syrian Kurdish militants did not push the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State (ISIS) to halt support for Turkish operations in Syria, coalition spokesperson told The Globe Post on Tuesday, dismissing a longstanding claim by Ankara that the coalition is preferring Kurds over Turkey.
Turkey found no Western ally when it launched its military campaign in northern Syria, just weeks after a failed military coup attempt, and yet successfully sealed its border from ISIS militants. As the Turkish army struggled to capture a key Syrian town called al-Bab from ISIS, Ankara clamored for air support since most of Turkey’s combat jet pilots were arrested as part of the post-coup crackdown.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday that the counter-ISIS coalition did not assist Turkey during its Operation Euphrates Shield in Syria due to the pressure by the People’s Protection Units (YPG). He praised Russia for lending a hand when Turkey was bogged down in al-Bab and accused the U.S.-led coalition of failing to assist the Turkish army. Mr. Cavusoglu reiterated that the YPG is a terrorist group.
The anti-ISIS coalition considers the Kurdish fighters one of the most capable forces in its nearly 2-year war against the extremist group. Ankara designated the YPG a terror group over its links to the Kurdistan People’s Party (PKK), which is also outlawed in Turkey and the U.S.
During the Operation Euphrates Shield, which ended on March 29, the Turkish military and allied Syrian rebels cleared northern Syria of ISIS fighters and blocked the advance of Kurdish militias.
Mr. Cavusoglu leveled similar blows against the previous U.S. administration for refusing to include Turkey in an anticipated offensive against ISIS’s de facto capital Raqqa because “the Obama administration wanted to use YPG in Raqqa operation.”
The coalition spokesperson said the bloc was still negotiating with Turkey about Ankara’s participation in the offensive to free Syria’s Raqqa of ISIS.
“Talks with our partner Turkey are ongoing,” the spokesperson said.
Turkey previously said that it won’t join the Raqqa offensive if Syrian Kurds are included in the operation to drive out ISIS militants.
On Tuesday, the Turkish military carried out a number of raids targeting PKK positions in Sinjar and the Syrian city of Malikiya. Sinjar is a small town in Iraq’s Kurdistan and is famed for sheltering Yazidi minority fleeing ISIS. The PKK rebels were hailed last year for helping the escape of Yazidis from ISIS.
Following the airstrikes on Tuesday, Kurdistan Region’s Ministry of Peshmerga issued a statement saying that 5 of its soldiers died in the raids.
“This painful and unacceptable attack on Peshmerga forces by Turkish warplanes is a result of PKK’s presence in and around Sinjar,” the ministry said, calling on the PKK to withdraw from the area.
At the same time, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry called the Turkish strikes “violation of Iraq’s sovereignty”.
Earlier this month, when the speculations about Turkey preparing for a military action on the territory of Iraq were mounting, the coalition told The Globe Post that it wants Turkey and other allies to focus on fighting ISIS, not the Kurds.
On Monday, the coalition conducted 8 strikes against ISIS positions near Sinjar destroying the terror group’s weapons facilities, staging areas and a weapons cache along with a VBIED and an IED factories.
As soon as Turkey launched the air campaign against Kurdish rebels in Syria and Iraq, the PKK killed at least 4 Turkish troops in two separate attacks in Sirnak and Kars on Tuesday.
Several Kurdish parties, including People’s Democracy Party (HDP), urged Kurdish people to go out on streets to protest against the military campaign against Kurdish militants in Syria and Iraq.
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