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YPG forces at the site of Turkish airstrikes near the northeastern Syrian Kurdish town of Derik.
YPG forces at the site of Turkish airstrikes near the northeastern Syrian Kurdish town of Derik.

Erdogan Seeks to Send Trump Stern Message on Syrian Kurds

Turkey last week bombed targets of the Kurdish YPG units in Syria, earning the wrath of its NATO ally Washington and on Sunday Erdogan warned more action could be imminent

Erdogan Seeks to Send Trump Stern Message on Syrian Kurds

By launching airstrikes against Syrian Kurdish fighters and threatening more action, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seeking to send a tough message to US President Donald Trump in the hope of bringing about a major U-turn in US’ Syria policy.
Turkey last week bombed targets of the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) in Syria, earning the wrath of its NATO ally Washington and on Sunday Erdogan warned more action could be imminent, AFP reported.
“We can come unexpectedly in the night,” said Erdogan. “We are not going to tip off the terror groups and the Turkish Armed Forces could come at any moment.”
The YPG has been seen by the United States as the best ally on the ground in the fight against the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group in Syria and Trump has inherited a policy from former president, Barack Obama, of actively supporting the group.
But Ankara claims YPG is a terror outfit and the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has waged an insurgency since 1984 inside Turkey and left tens of thousands dead.
Analysts say the dispute will be the number one issue when Erdogan meets Trump for the first time as president on May 16 in the United States. Failing to resolve the problem could seriously harm US efforts to destroy IS in Syria.
The cooperation between Washington and the YPG, which saw the United States send a limited number of forces to work with the group, led to bitter tensions between Ankara and Washington in the dying months of the Obama administration.
The US backed the formation of the Syrian Democratic Forces, dominated by the YPG but also including Arab fighters, yet Ankara contends it is merely a front for the Kurdish group.
In an unusual move after days of border clashes between the Turkish Army and YPG that followed the airstrikes, the US sent military vehicles to the Syrian side of the frontier to carry out patrols to prevent further fighting.
Erdogan said the sight of American flags in the convoy alongside YPG insignia had “seriously saddened” Turkey.

  “Tensions Help IS Survival”
The Turkish president, fresh from winning the controversial April 16 referendum on enhancing his powers, has indicated that the rewards for Washington in breaking up with the YPG could be high by spurring Turkish involvement in a joint operation to take the IS fiefdom of Raqqa.
Together, the United States can “turn Raqqa into a graveyard for IS,” Erdogan said on Saturday.
But Ankara has made clear it will have nothing to do with any operation involving the YPG and analysts say Turkey could even be a threat to a Raqqa operation if it is not included.
“Washington was reluctant to launch the Raqqa operation before Turkey’s April 16 referendum to avoid potential complications with Ankara,” said Aykan Erdemir, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
He said the Turkish airstrikes, which were combined with strikes against the PKK in Iraq, brought “another unanticipated challenge” to coalition efforts against the militants.
“Tensions among coalition members have been one of the key factors for the Islamic State’s continued survival,” he said.
Highlight: Ankara has made clear it will have nothing to do with any operation involving the YPG and analysts say Turkey could even be a threat to a Raqqa operation against IS if it is not included

 

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