A minister in the Turkish government has rejected US claims that a temporary pause in fighting in northern Syria had been agreed upon by Turkish-backed rebels and Kurdish forces fighting in northern Syria.
Omer Celik, EU affairs minister said to the state-run Anadolu news agency: "We do not accept in any circumstances ... a 'compromise or a ceasefire reached between Turkey and Kurdish elements. The Turkish republic is a sovereign, legitimate state." This statement appears to conflict with a statement by US officials that they had received assurances that all parties involved would stop shooting at each other and concentrate on fighting the Islamic State. Colonel John Thomas, spokesperson for the US Central Command said:"It is a loose agreement for at least the next couple of days and we are hoping that will solidify." Thomas claimed that the Turkey and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) of which Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) are the main group had opened communications with the US and each other with the goal of limiting hostilities. Perhaps, the contacts are with Turkish supported rebel forces but without the blessing of the Turkish government.
Turkey wants the Kurds to withdraw to east of the Euphrates river but there are still quite a number of SDF forces west of the river including in occupation of the city of Manjbi. Josh Earnest the White House spokesperson had already said: "The US welcomes the overnight calm between the Turkish military and other counter-ISIL forces in Syria. It continues to encourage these moves as a way to prevent further hostilities and loss of life between all counter-ISIL forces operating in the area." Polat Can, the YPG representative of the anti-ISIL coalition also claimed that the SDF had reached a truce with the Turkish-backed rebels saying in a tweet: "We have reached a temporary ceasefire between the Jarablus Military Council and the occupying Turkish army in the Jarablus area under the supervision of the global coalition."The conflicting reports could indicate that there are increasing tensions between the US and Turkey about the role of the Kurds in Syria. However, the US has also asked that the Kurds withdraw from positions west of the Euphrates. Indications seem to be that until the YPG withdraws east of the Euphrates Turkish attacks will not stop.
Ten Free Syrian Army (FSA) groups who are part of the SDF led by the YPG have denounced Turkey's Euphrates Shield operation that is designed to expel the SDF as well as the IS from areas west of the Euphrates river. The group also complained of civilian deaths caused by the Turkish operation. The Euphrates Shield operation is itself carried out by FSA groups, Turkish-backed Islamist rebels, and Turkish military forces. The move threaten to divide the anti-IS coalition. Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist group and as much as a threat to Turkey as the IS. The US, on the other hand, regards the YPG as a key ally in fighting the IS.
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Ken is a retired philosophy professor living in the boondocks of Manitoba, Canada, with his Filipina wife. He enjoys reading the news and writing articles. Politically Ken is on the far left of the political spectrum on many issues.