Syrian Kurd protests at Al-Qahtaniye protest on 1 November 2018 against Turkish bombing of Kurdish militia in northern Syria
Al Qahtaniyah (Syria) (AFP) – Turkey and the United States began joint patrols on the outskirts of Minbej in northern Syria on Thursday as Washington wants to defuse the escalation between Ankara and a Syrian Kurdish militia. key ally of the Americans in the anti-jihadist struggle.
Turkish Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US President Donald Trump spoke on the phone on Syria on Thursday, the Turkish presidency said shortly after the announcement of joint patrols near Minbej.
In recent days, Turkey has raised its voice against the Kurdish militia of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), bombarding some of its positions in Syria and waving the threat of another major offensive.
A renewed tension that embarrasses the United States.
The YPG militia, which operates in a Kurdish-Arab alliance called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), is indeed a key partner of Washington in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group. But Turkey is also a strategic ally of the United States within NATO.
In response to the shelling of Ankara, the SDS announced the temporary suspension of an offensive against ISIS in eastern Syria.
In what appears to be a Washington sign to appease Turkey, joint patrols with Ankara began Thursday on the outskirts of the Syrian town of Minbej, where US and French troops are deployed.
Although the YPG claimed to have left the city pulled in 2016 from IS, Turkey recently complained about the continued presence of militia members, repeatedly threatening to launch an offensive there.
“The joint patrol between Turkish and US forces in Minbej has begun,” Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar was quoted by Turkish state agency Anadolu as saying. She moves around the Sajour River, between Minbej and Jarablous, a city controlled by Syrian rebels backed by Ankara, according to Anadolu.
For its part, the coalition said it was “confident about the effectiveness” of these joint patrols. “Preserving security and stability in Minbej is imperative to maintain momentum in IS operations in eastern Syria,” she said.
– “De-escalation” –
For months now, Turkey and the United States have been conducting separate but “coordinated” patrols in Minbej as part of a roadmap developed in June to defuse tensions.
For the expert on Syria Nicholas Heras, these patrols must help Washington to neutralize any initiative of the Turkish president against the Kurdish territories of north and north-east Syria.
“Trump’s entourage is hoping that the success of the patrols in Minbej will prevent Erdogan from waving in the areas controlled by the SDF,” said the researcher at the Center for a New American Security.
The Kurdish minority, oppressed for decades by the power of Damascus, has benefited from the conflict ravaging Syria since 2011 to nibble de facto autonomy.
However, Ankara fears that the establishment of a Kurdish entity on its border does not galvanize the separatist inclinations on its soil.
“We are in communication with Turkey and the FDS for a de-escalation of the situation,” Col. Sean Ryan, a spokesman for the anti-jihadist coalition, told reporters on Thursday.
Meanwhile, FDS spokesman Kino Gabriel told AFP on Thursday that despite the suspension of the offensive against ISIS in eastern Syria, “the forces are still stationed at their positions” in the area.
– “Revenge” –
For the second consecutive day, rallies denouncing the Turkish bombing in northern Syria were also held Thursday, said an AFP correspondent.
“We want to send our voice to the world to stop the Turkish attacks against the Kurdish people,” said the fifties Ali Saoudi in the locality of Al-Qahtaniye (north-east).
“It is their revenge against the achievements made by the Kurds” in Syria, he laments.
Since 2016, Turkey has carried out two operations against Kurdish forces in Syria, the last against the border enclave of Afrine (north-west), conquered in March and now controlled by Syrian pro-Ankara rebels.
Ankara regards the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group that has been guerrilla fighters on Turkish soil since 1984.
But if the PKK is classified as “terrorist” by Turkey’s western allies, this is not the case for YPGs.
The antagonism between Turkey and the Syrian Kurds illustrates the complexity of the war that has ravaged Syria since 2011 and left more than 360,000 dead.
Triggered with the suppression by the regime of Bashar al-Assad pro-democracy demonstrations, the conflict has widened with the emergence of armed rebel groups, jihadist organizations, but also the involvement of foreign powers