On Monday, Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, criticized the United States military forces in Syria for deliberately holding back the fight against Islamic State militants. He claimed that they are leaving “pockets” for IS militants as a means to not cut ties with Syrian Kurdish militias, which Ankara has demanded the United States do in order to improve their ties.
So far, Ankara is vexed over Washington’s support for the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, which is their top ally in the fight against the Islamic State. Cavusoglu made it clear that Turkey’s ties with the U.S. are at a make-or-break point.
“Our relations are at a very critical stage,” he said. “Either we will improve ties or these ties will totally break down.”
The YPG is considered a “terrorist” group by Turkey because of its insurgents fighting within the borders of Turkey, especially in the Afrin region. Furthermore, Ankara has threatened to expand its offensive operations into the YPG-held town of Manbij where there is U.S. military presence. However, in more than three weeks of fighting, the operations have been slow, as Turkey managed to capture only several hilltops and villages.
According to Sipan Hemo, the commander of the YPG, Turkey’s operation had overtaken some “strategic points” in the Afrin region but said that they were not serious. He also said that what Turkey is doing is “illegal” and that it was in violation of the Syrian sovereignty. Speaking to journalists over Skype, Hemo said that the YPG would welcome government forces “to enter to defend the borders of Afrin in the face of occupation of Turkey.”
Since 2016, Turkey has kept ground troops in northern Syria with three objectives on their agenda: fighting the Islamic State, containing the expansion of Kurdish forces, and stabilizing the lines of conflict between the government and rebels.
[via US News]