United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, states in its latest report that the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the militant wing of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), has committed human rights violations in the occupied areas of northern Syria.
The UN report presented by Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday indicated that, “Following the YPG’s retaking of previously ISIS-controlled areas of Tal Abyad in early July and villages in the Tel Tamer region of Al-Hasakah, YPG fighters reportedly looted houses belonging to Arab villagers.”
“The commission always reported on violence committed by the YPG in previous reports,” Pinheiro also stressed.
Turkey previously raised concerns over the border security and displacement of Turkmen and Arabs from Tal Abyad, demanding international community to take notice of the PYD actions, following the capture of the strategic district by the YPG on June 15.
Ankara has repeatedly warned the PYD about its actions concerning “demographic change” and “ethnic cleansing” in northern Syria.
The PYD is considered by Turkey to be the Syrian affiliate of the PKK, which is recognised as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US, NATO and EU.
UN spokesman Stephen Dujarric also said, “The Secretary-General has been clear that any group or anyone who commits human rights violations must be held to account,” replying a question by Turkish Anadolu Agency, regarding Pinheiro's statement connected to the PYD activities.
However, US State Department spokesman, John Kirby has announced that the Obama administration does not label People’s Protection Units (YPG) as a terrorist group.
Kirby said, “We don’t consider the YPG a terrorist organization, and they have proven successful against ISIL [ISIS] inside Syria. And as I said, we’re going to continue to work with counter-ISIL fighters who are and can be successful against this group,” speaking in a daily press briefing on Sept. 21.
“They’re not all Kurds,” he added.
Kirby also tried to address Turkish objections concerning US-led coalitions support of the PYD activities in northern Syria saying that “We understand that the Turkish Government has concerns about the YPG. We continue to talk to them and engage them. We continue to be appreciative of the support that Turkey is making to the coalition and to direct kinetic activity against ISIS.”
He pointed out that Turkey and US should not have to agree upon every single issue in terms of the Syrian conflict, signaling Turkey and US appear to have differences in terms of priorities on politics regarding northern Syria, despite sharing many common interests.
“You come together for a common goal; you don’t have to agree on every issue; and you bring to the fight what you can, where you can, and when you can. And that’s how we’re managing this very important struggle,” the spokesman stated.
Turkey's Concerns over YPG
Turkey is concerned by the PYD activities along its border in northern Syria, as much as it is concerned with the actions of ISIS and the Assad regime.
On the other hand, the US-led coalition is highly supportive of the PYD’s activities against ISIS, which has been heavily bombarded by the coalition in coordination with attacks by the PYD.
In November 2013, the PYD announced three autonomous areas or “cantons” which are Afrin, Kobani and Jazira from west to the east in northern Syria, following withdrawal of the Syrian regime forces from mostly Kurdish inhabited areas.
In addition, the YPG also captured Tel Abyad from ISIS in summer and was able to link it to its Kobane and the Jazira “cantons,” allowing YPG to control most of Syria’s Turkish border and leading to fears in Turkey that it might end up neighbouring a Kurdish entity which has strong relations with the PKK.
Therefore, Turkey aims to keep the expansion of PYD in check and has previously declared that Turkey will consider any incursion to the west of the Euphrates river in northern Syria along the Turkish border by the PYD as a “violation of the red line”, which was set at a recent National Security Council meeting in late June.
ISIS-held Jarablus is located in the west of Euphrates next to the PYD-controlled Kobane “canton.” A high-ranking PYD representative, Idres Nassan referred to a US plan in late August, which was “to move to liberate the western side of the Euphrates once the areas to the east have been cleared of ISIS,” implying that the YPG was primarily considered by the US-led coalition forces for a “liberation” mission in northern Iraq.
Furthermore, British newspaper Independent reported on Monday that “Syrian Kurdish leaders plan to capture the last border crossing point between Syria and Turkey held by ISIS,” which is Jarabulus, allegedly in order to prevent foreign fighters from European and other countries to join with ISIS.
“We have plans to liberate Jarabulus,” Nassan reiterated according to Independent.
Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan previously declared that Turkey will never allow the establishment of a state in northern Syria, or south of Turkey which has a large Kurdish population, no matter what it costs the country.