April 27, 2017 – MESOP – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: “We are obliged to take measures. We must take steps.”The Turkish air force bombed positions of the Syrian Kurdish militia YPG in northeastern Syria for the second straight day on Wednesday, and cross-border fire and ground clashes were reported between the two sides. Ankara’s forces are also attacking camps of the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK, with which the YPG is linked, in northern Iraq.The YPG said on Tuesday that 20 of its fighters were killed and 18 wounded in Mount Karachok, near the border with Turkey. A Turkish statement on Wednesday said eight PKK fighters were killed and three shelters and gun emplacements were destroyed, while Turkish forces responded to mortar fire on an outpost in Hatay Province in southern Turkey.
Kurdish outlets reported ground clashes inside Syria near the Turkish border, claiming that a Turkish tank was destroyed.
The Turkish military says that it is seeking “to destroy these terror hubs which threaten the security, unity and integrity of our country and our nation”. The PKK has fought Turkish security forces for more than 30 years.
“We are obliged to take measures. We must take steps. We have shared this with the US and Russia and we are sharing it with Iraq as well,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said. He said that it was a “source of sadness for us” that five or six Iraqi Kurdish fighters were killed in the attacks in the Sinjar Mountains in northern Iraq: “The Turkish military’s operation is by no means against peshmerga forces.”
The YPG called for a no-fly zone in northern Syria, saying it “will help keep millions alive and a stable north Syria is a stable regional situation”.
Footage from the Syrian Kurdish outlet Hawar News of smoke rising from an attack:
US Calls on Turkey to Stop Attacks
The US military continued to show support for the YPG, which is the leading element of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, on Wednesday. A statement from US Central Command said, “Our partner forces have been killed by a Turkey strike. They have made many sacrifices to defeat ISIS.”
Since the SDF was created in autumn 2015, the US has provided airstrikes, special forces, armor, and other weapons and equipment to support the Forces’ campaign against the Islamic State in northeastern Syria. For months, an SDF offensive on Raqqa, ISIS’s central position in Syria, has been held up in part by political issues around Turkey’s objections to the YPG, the military branch of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Party (PYD).
A spokesman of the YPJ, the women’s branch of the YPG, said the militia will withdraw from the Raqqa operation if the US does not act against the Turkish airstrikes:
Until now we have been in a joint struggle with the coalition against ISIS terror. We are still involved in that struggle. [But] our people are expecting a response from us on why the coalition is not showing Turkey a concrete reaction….We are not anyone’s stick to beat their enemies with.
Asked on Wednesday if the US has told Ankara that “Turkey must stop attacking the YPG”, State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said, “We did convey that.”
At the same time, Toner said the US supports “Turkey’s efforts to protect its borders from PKK terrorism”, adding, “Clearly though there’s a difference of opinion between the US and Turkey over those partners who are on the ground fighting ISIS.”
Toner said that Ankara notified Washington just 52 minutes ahead of the initial strikes: “I’ll say it again. There was a lack of coordination, of notification on these airstrikes.”
Soon after the Turkish airstrikes on Tuesday, a US military commander was photographed on an inspection tour with Abdi Ferhad Şahin, the adopted son of PKK founder Abdullah Ocalan and the general commander of YPG forces.
Şahin, known as Sahin Cilo, is on the Turkish Interior Ministry’s list of most wanted terrorists, with a bounty of four million liras ($1.12 million).
The PKK militant codenamed “Şahin Cilo,” is one of the senior members of the terrorist group. He was the member responsible of the PKK’s European operations back in 1998 when the group’s leader Abdullah Öcalan was expelled from Syria.
Ankara’s Daily Sabah, close to the Erdoğan Government, reacted, “What the U.S should do is give full support to Turkey in its fight against a group both sides recognize as terrorist. As a loyal ally, this is the least Turkey should expect, despite the fact that least seems to be too much for Americans.”
Russia called for “restraint” by “all parties” while pinning blame on Ankara, in a statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry:
Such moves trigger most serious concern in Moscow. We are talking about actions by Turkish military against Kurdish forces that really stand against terrorist groups, first of all Islamic State, on the ground….
The fact that Turkish airstrikes were conducted on the territory of sovereign states in bypass of their legitimate governments cannot but cause concern. We consider these actions inadmissible, running counter to the founding principles of inter-state relations.