THE Turkish government warned on Monday that it would carry out more strikes on the previously US-backed Kurdish militia in Syria if it fails to retreat east of the Euphrates.
Turkish forces meanwhile pressed on with their operation inside Syria against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), shelling over a dozen targets, despite the fact that the Syrian government had denounced these attacks as a terrorist onslaught on Syria.
Ankara announced yesterday that it had killed 25 Kurdish ‘terrorists’ in strikes on YPG positions on Sunday – meaning that the two US-backed forces are now fighting each other, with Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook lamenting that the clashes are ‘unacceptable and a source of deep concern.’
Cook called for steps to de-escalate the situation and said Washington had once again told the YPG to retreat east of the Euphrates. He insisted that this has ‘largely occurred’. US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter said later that he had appealed to both sides not to fight. He added: ‘That’s the basis of our cooperation with both of them – specifically not to engage one another.’
US officials added that the Kurdish Self Defence Forces had ‘all’ withdrawn east of the Euphrates, but they said some Kurdish people remained in the west. However, Erdogan’s aim is to expel all Kurds to east of the Euphrates and to have the border region west of the Euphrates under complete control. Turkey is opposed to Syria agreeing to an autonomous Kurdish region, since it views the Kurds as the strategic enemies of the Turkish state.
US President Barack Obama has responded by stating that he will meet his Turkish counterpart, Erdogan, over the next weekend in China on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit. ‘They have to stay united’ said Obama aide Ben Rhodes on Monday.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin will also be among the Heads of State attending from September 4th.
The Obama-Erdogan meeting will be the first between the two leaders since the failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, which Erdogan alleged was organised by Turkish exile Gulen from his place of asylum in the US, and which Turkey alleged the US had advance notice. Since the coup, Erdogan has turned Turkey into an even more repressive prison.
Erdogan has used the coup crisis, and the fact that he was warned of the coup by Russia, to draw closer to Russia and Putin, and he has been skilfully playing off Obama `and Putin, to the point where his invasion of Syria – which after the shooting down of the Russian jet would have been seen as an act of war and treated as such – was tolerated by Russia, unlike Syria which condemned it. In fact, it was Russia’s job to pass on the information of the coming Turkish offensive to Assad, according to Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus.
Stalinist diplomacy is now in ruins. Foreign Minister Lavrov emerged out of the Geneva talks with US Secretary of State Kerry stating that they had got no further than a lowering of the level of ‘mutual distrust’, but that talks would continue and that the US and Russia would draw up a joint document.
On Tuesday Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the media: ‘We are still far away from real cooperation, to our regret. As before, we would like to see the United States’ greater readiness for real cooperation, in other words, for taking our cooperation not just to the level of information exchanges or sporadic interaction, but a level of full-fledged cooperation, without which a settlement of the gravest Syrian problem would be impossible.’
Asked for a comment on a statement by US foreign policy adviser Ben Rhodes to the effect that the window of opportunity for cooperation between Russia and the US over Syria was closing, Peskov said: ‘All signals were made in Geneva last Friday. All detailed discussions have been held and all detailed messages expressed by our foreign minister.’
The issue is that the US and Turkey are about to seek an understanding, with the acquiesence of Putin, to impose a settlement on Syria directed against the Assad government, the Syrian people and its Kurdish minority, with Turkey in control of the border area. This will be followed by an offensive against the Kurdish people in south west Turkey.
The Syrian people will stand fast that only they can decide who will govern Syria and how its peoples will live, and they must have the 100% support of the working people of the world.