MESOP NEWS : Turkey sends military reinforcements into Syria amidst intensifying clashes with Kurdish YPG

22 June 2017 ARA News – The Turkish authorities on Wednesday sent new military reinforcements into northern Syria, including troops, vehicles and equipment, local sources reported.According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Turkish forces had crossed the border in the last 24 hours and headed towards areas south of Azaz town, which is held by Turkish-backed Syrian rebels.

This comes as the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) continues to fight against Turkey-backed groups south of Azaz and in the Kurdish Afrin district in Aleppo province.“The reinforcements are part of preparations for new joint attacks on the YPG by Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel allies in that area of Syria’s northwest,” the observatory reported on Wednesday.The Turkish move comes despite US warnings about any actions that may hinder the Kurdish-led fight against ISIS in northern Syria.

The YPG is leading the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the war on ISIS. The SDF is currently engaged in heavy clashes with ISIS militants in Raqqa city–the group’s de facto capital in Syria.Turkey launched an offensive in northern Syria in August last year, sending tanks and warplanes across the border to support Syrian rebels fighting both ISIS and the YPG.It helped them carve out a big portion of northern Syria, helping ensure the YPG and its allies could not link the 400-km (250-mile) stretch of territory they hold in the north and northeast with the pocket they hold west of Azaz.

Turkey considers the YPG as a Syrian extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been in fight with the Turkish authorities for decades.

A US-led coalition spokesperson told ARA News that for the United States there is a difference between the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the People’s Protection Units (YPG). “We disagree with the Turkish position that the YPG and the PKK are the same organization. The Coalition recognizes the threat the PKK poses to Turkey, but Turkey cannot pursue that fight at the expense of our common fight against terrorists that threaten us all,” he said, in reference to the war on ISIS jihadists. “We call on all countries in the region to remain focused on the fight to defeat ISIS, which is the greatest threat to regional and worldwide peace and security,” the official told ARA News. “This is a message from the United States to Turkey to stop attacking the YPG, since they fear this could threaten the anti-ISIS Raqqa operation,” local Kurdish journalist Heybar Othman told ARA News.