US urges Kurds to allow return of Syrian refugees

Pentagon calls on YPG to hand administration of northern cities it captured from ISIS to local committees

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

The Pentagon on Wednesday urged the Kurdish People Protection Units, also known as the YPG, to allow Syrian refugees on the Turkish Syrian border to return to their homes in the town of Tal Abyad in Raqqa province, which the YPG had captured from ISIS.

The Pentagon called on the YPG to deliver the administration of the northern Syrian cities they captured from ISIS to local committees as they had pledged to do earlier.  

Backed by 2,000 US-led coalition air strikes, the YPG managed to capture the key Turkish-Syrian border town of Tal Abyad in Raqqa province in ISIS’ heartland, which the group had declared the capital of their self-proclaimed “caliphate.”

After capturing the city of Tal Abyad the Kurdish fighters allegedly prevented the Arabs and Turkmen, whom they forced to flee the city during an offensive in June, from returning to their homes.

"We treat any allegations very seriously and have made clear to all actors that such behavior is unacceptable," Pentagon spokesman Elissa Smith told Turkey’s Anadolu Agency in an interview.

The PYD's decision to allow refugees to go back to Tal Abyad was welcomed by Smith and she urged the YPG to fulfill its pledge to leave the administration of the town to local civilian committees. Smith emphasised the necessity of protecting the local population’s rights.

"[We] urge these groups to fulfill those public pledges, and will continue to encourage all forces in Tal Abyad to help set conditions for the return of refugees," she added.

The YPG is the military wing of PYD. The PYD is seen by Turkey as a Syrian affiliate of the outlawed PKK. Both aspire to create an independent nation for ethnic Kurds out of parts of Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran. The PKK is recognised as a terrorist organisation by the EU, NATO, as well as Turkey.

The YPG announced on Monday in a declaration that it had recaptured the strategic city of Ain Isa, 50 km north of Raqqa, from ISIS for the second time.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has confirmed that YPG fighters have taken control of the city.  

The YPG have also captured other villages from ISIS in the northeastern province of Hasakah, with intensive confrontations erupting between ISIS fighters and the YPG in some districts of Hasakah city.

Kurdish rebels control three areas in northern Syria, dubbing them Kurdish "cantons." The area round Afrin city in the northwest corner of Syria has been named “Afrin Canton”; the area around the city of Ayn al-Arab, a few hundred miles east of Afrin, has been named the “Kobani Canton”; and the area encompassing the cities of Tal Hamees, al-Hasakeh, al-Qamisli and Ra'sal Ayn has been named the “Jazirah Canton.”

YPG forces connected the Jazirah and Afrin Cantons along the Turkish border by capturing Tal Abyad.

TRTWorld and agencies