Military officials from the United States (US) have been holding meetings with their counterparts in Ankara aimed at preventing Turkey from launching a military operation against the US-backed Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria, Washington Post (WP) reported on Monday.
Turkey wants to create a safe zone in the region in an effort to clear the area east of the Euphrates river of the YPG which forms the central command structure of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighting against Islamic State (ISIS).
Turkey regards the Kurdish YPG as a terrorist group due to its affiliation with the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), a rebellious group that has waged a decades-long insurgency in Turkey.
The US administration defines the high-level meetings as “a last-ditch effort to dissuade Turkey from launching a unilateral attack”, believing a possible Turkish attack on the YPG would harm the struggle against ISIS.
“We entered Afrin, Jarablus, and Al-Bab. Now we will enter the east of the Euphrates. As long as harassment fire continues, we cannot remain silent. We can only be patient to some degree. There is an end to that patience,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday.
Speaking to Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency, an unnamed Turkish military source declared late on Monday that the offensive may be launched after August 11.
On the same day, the SDF commander Newroz Ahmed said they are ready for a fight if the Turkish state does not choose dialogue for a solution.
“If an attack is launched in any region, this attack will not be limited to this region. Rather, the long border with the Turkish state will become a region of war,” Ahmed vowed.
James Jeffrey, the US Special Representative for Syria Engagement said last week that Washington is “committed to those who have fought with us not being attacked and not being harmed by anyone. The president made that clear publicly.”
Turkey wants a 30 km deep safe zone with full control over it while the US favors a 10 km-deep area with no permanent Turkish troops in it.
According to the WP report, the US proposes a joint US-Turkey operation in the area near the border with 14.5 kilometers (around nine miles) in-depth and 140 kilometers (around 87 miles) in length, clearing the area of the YPG and accepting Turkish patrols with the US and perhaps French forces in the aftermath.