Eli Ridder | SYRIA
The United States is working toward a diplomatic solution to stop the Turkish assault on the Syrian Kurdish enclave of Afrin, an offensive criticized by Washington and Damascus and reportedly supported by Russia.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he recognized Ankara’s “legitimate” security concerns and right to defend its borders from terrorist threats but explained he was “concerned” about the Turkish offensive and urged all sides to show restraint.
“The U.S. is in Syria to defeat ISIS,” Tillerson said on Monday while in the British capital London, using another acronym for so-called Islamic State, as he began a meeting with his counterpart Boris Johnson.
“We’ve done that with a coalition of partners and the Syrian Democratic Forces, so we are concerned about the Turkish incidents in northern Syria.”
The Kurdish-led SDF are a key part of the U.S.-led coalition’s fight against Daesh (IS) in Syria and are now taking part in a training program for a border security force in the country’s north.
Following meetings with Russia, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would not back down from the original plan to oust Kurdish fighters from Afrin.
“We are determined, Afrin will be sorted out, we will take no step back,” Mr. Erdogan said in a televised speech, claiming that Ankara has reached an agreement with Moscow in regards to the situation.
The campaign continues
Monday marked an intensifying third day in the Turkish campaign to push the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) 30 kilometers away from its southern border in an effort to create a “safe zone” protecting Turkey’s southern border.
State-run Anadolu reported on Monday that Turkish forces continued their shelling on Kurdish positions, an artillery barrage in support of Turkish and allied Free Syrian Army militia forces, a rebel group opposing the Syrian regime in Damascus.
Turkish warplanes struck Afrin’s strategic Bursaya Mountain while its armed ground forces advanced in the Azaz district, east of Afrin, according to the Turkish Anadolu news agency.
The latest casualty numbers list six civilians and three Kurdish fighters as dead, with the first Turkish troop death coming on Monday when the YPG retaliated by crossing the border into the Turkish province of Hatay, according to Anadolu.
The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces also said they were considering sending forces to assist the YPG in fighting off Turkish and FSA forces. Washington is a close ally of the Kurdish-led and dominated SDF and the YPG.
Ankara considers Syrian Kurds to be associated with the terror Kurdistan Workers’ Party group in southeastern Turkey, which the Kurd’s vehemently deny in an assertion Washington backs.
Video: Turkey launches offensive
Video from Al Jazeera news agency: 71 Republic takes no credit for this video.
Image of Rex Tillerson from Business Insider.