Putin, Erdogan reaffirm solidarity as Turkish drones attack US-allied forces in Syria
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JERUSALEM, Israel – The Turkish government has stepped up its lethal drone strikes against US-allied Kurdish forces in northern Syria ahead of a threat of a full-scale invasion.
On Sunday, a Turkish drone strike was reported to have killed 4 people in a town on the Syrian-Turkish border.
The latest attack drew criticism from the Syrian Defense Forces (SDF), a US-allied force that helped defeat ISIS. The force consists mainly of Kurds. According to local reports, the SDF blamed both Russia and the US for allowing the attacks and claimed that the Turks could not have launched them without US and Russian permission.
“Since July 20, we have had nine people killed from the Syrian Defense Forces (SDF), 13 civilians and four from the internal security forces. All targeted by Turkish drones,” Sinam Mohamad, who is the representative of the Council Syrian Democratic (SDC) in the US
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Mohamad told Fox News Digital that: “Turkey is threatening to invade militarily. They are using drone strikes. Now it has escalated.”
Last week, in a joint statement after a four-hour meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, the two strongmen “reaffirmed their determination to act in a coordinated and united manner in the fight against all terrorist organizations” in Syria.
The opaque joint statement made no reference to Russian flexibility to allow a high-intensity Turkish military invasion of Syria.
Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Vladimir Putin, said, according to the Interfax news agency, “military-technical cooperation between the two countries is permanently on the agenda, and the very fact that our interaction is developing in this sensitive sphere it shows that, in general, the whole range of our interrelationships is at a very high level.”
Russia’s military presence, including its air power in Syria, has complicated Erdogan’s burning desire to invade Syria and create a buffer zone along the Turkish-Syrian border.
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Erdogan claims that Kurdish forces in northern Syria that helped the US topple ISIS are affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Turkey. Turkey has classified the PKK as a terrorist organization. The US disagrees with Turkey over the SDF and values its Syrian Kurdish allies.
The official Twitter account of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) mourned the loss of Salwa Yusku, a deputy commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces, who was killed by a Turkish drone on July 22.
US Central Command tweeted: “Salwa was a critical SDF leader who led forces in combat against ISIS from the height of the fight to defeat the vile ideology in northeastern Syria in 2017. CENTCOM reports our condolences to the families of these 3 SDF fighters, the people. in North East Syria and our SDF partners.”
US officials and veteran SDF observers have noted that Salwa played a key role in saving American lives during the war against ISIS.
Mohamad flatly denied any links to the PKK. “To accuse these people of being PKK or terrorists is not true. They were defending the Syrian people from the Islamic State terrorist group.”
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A representative of the Turkish Embassy in Washington, DC, told Fox News Digital: “It is important to note that PKK/YPG attacks emanating from northern Syria against Turkey and civilian targets have exceeded 1,800 in last two years. This group takes advantage of its presence. in places near the Turkish border to launch drone attacks on Turkish territory. It also digs tunnels under the Turkish border to launch attacks.”
YPG is short for the People’s Defense Units, a Syrian Kurdish militia.
Mohamad said political parties in the Syrian Democratic Council want the United States to impose a no-fly zone over northern Syria to stop Erdogan’s intensive drone and warplane attacks. The US rejected the idea.
Mohamad noted that one proposal that appears to be gaining traction is an amendment to a congressional bill that would prohibit Turkey from using US F-16 fighter jets against US partners in the fight against terrorism.
The proposed legislation could be implemented to curb Erdogan’s efforts to use US military air power to launch strikes against the SDF.
Mohamad, who is from the northern Syrian city of Afrin, said Erdogan “used air power” to carry out “ethnic cleansing” in Afrin in 2018. Turkey captured the city four years ago, expelling the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia.
Mohamad said Turkish-backed military groups raped Kurdish women and confiscated Kurdish property. Turkey’s demographic goal according to Mohamad “is to replace the Kurdish population with other people who are not from the region.”
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He said “there was a massive demographic change in Afrin and most of the Kurds (300,000) were displaced, as well as the Arabs.”
In 2018, Redur Xelil, head of foreign relations for the SDF, told Reuters: “The Turkish government is settling Turkmen and Arab families in the Afrin villages it occupied after expelling its people and is distributing the belongings of the people of Afrin to the new settlers.”
In 2020, Michelle Bachelet, the UN human rights chief, urged Turkey to launch what she said should be “an impartial, transparent and independent investigation into the incidents,” which the UN had verified” and he said he needed to “hold accountable those responsible for what, in some cases, may amount to crimes under international law, including war crimes.”
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The representative of the Turkish Embassy told Fox News Digital: “The PKK/YPG’s manual of operations is based on terrorism and black propaganda” against Turkey. He said: “In this regard, the accusations of ‘ethnic cleansing of the Kurds’ are completely false.” He said Turkey is fighting “the PKK/YPG terrorist organizations, not the Kurds.”
The Turkish representative concluded that “the continued ignoring of our calls and the consequent appeasement of the PKK/YPG terrorist elements in Syria has led to the resurgence of DAESH. [Islamic State].”