Turkish official: “If [Raqqa] operation is carried out in this manner there will be a cost for Turkey-U.S. relations.”
The first meeting between Turkish, American, and Russian military commanders over Syria’s conflict has ended in discord, with Ankara criticizing Washington for its support of the Kurdish YPG militia.
The discussion between the Chiefs of Staff of the military — Turkey’s Hulsi Akar, the US’s Joseph Dunford, and Russia’s Valery Gerasimov — was seeking agreement on an offensive against the city of Raqqa, the central Islamic State position in Syria.
But “a senior Turkish official” said afterwards that the US appeared to have decided on the involvement of the YPG, the leading group in the US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces, in the operations.
Turkey has insisted that the YPG be excluded from any offensive. Ankara considers the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its militia to be part of the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK, which has fought for decades for independence.
The Turkish official said:
It appears that the U.S. may carry out this operation with the YPG, not with Turkey. And at the same time the US is giving weapons to the YPG,” the official said.
If this operation is carried out in this manner there will be a cost for Turkey-U.S. relations, because the YPG is a terrorist organization.
A US defense official said that Dunford did not inform his Turkish counterpart of any decision about the Raqqa offensive.
The US has backed the Kurdish-led SDF since its creation in autumn 2015 to fight the Islamic State, supplying special forces, armored vehicles, and weapons.
Turkey had set the Euphrates River in northeast Syria as a “red line”, but the SDF moved west of the river in December 2015 and has advanced as far as the city of Manbij in Aleppo Province, capturing it in June 2016.
The prospect of a showdown has arisen in the past month with a Turkish-rebel offensive taking nearby al-Bab, 30 km (19 miles) south of the Turkish-Syrian border and 40 km (25 miles) northeast of Aleppo city. Meanwhile, pro-Assad forces have seized areas south and east of al-Bab, establishing their first link with Kurdish-held territory.
In a sign of the developing alliance against Turkey and the rebels, the SDF handed villages west of Manbij to the Assad regime, in a deal brokered by Russia.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has promised that the Turkish-rebel offensive will take Manbij on its way to Raqqa.
However, Prime Minster Binali Yildirim said that the operations needed to be coordinated with the US and Russia.
TOP PHOTO: Meeting of the Generals — the US’s Joseph Dunford, Turkey’s Hulsi Akar, and Russia’s Valery Gerasimov on Tuesday
Anti-Assad Blocs Agree to End In-Fighting in Northwest
The anti-Assad blocs Ahrar al-Sham and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham have reached an agreement to end their clashes in Idlib Province in northwest Syria.
HTS, led by Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra), has been criticized for months for attacks on rebel groups, including headquarters and warehouses, in Idlib and Aleppo Provinces.
On Monday, fighting was reported in the town of al-Mastoumeh in Idlib Province. Ahrar al-Sham issued a statement accusing HTS of trying to block a merger for unity, and calling on the bloc to take any dispute to Sharia court.
Tuesday’s agreement includes the lifting of barricades on roads, release of detainees, and an end to abusive propaganda. A joint committee will return arms seized by each side.
Pro-Assad Forces Claim Capture of Aleppo’s Water Source
Pro-Assad forces claim they have captured the main water pumping station for Aleppo city from the Islamic State.
An outlet linked to Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which fights with regime forces, said the al-Khafsa area on the western bank of the Euphrates River had been taken.
The Syrian military and its Hezbollah and Iranian-led allies, supported by Russian airstrikes, have pushed back ISIS to the east of Aleppo city. The Islamic State had held the water treatment and pumping plants for two months.