Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) could not play a prominent role in the establishment of an ISIS-free zone in northern Syria, planned by Turkey and US-led coalition forces as long as it does not not change its policies radically in the country.
Cavusoglu has stated that the US and Turkey ended its talks on Sunday regarding the plans to establish a zone in northern Syria speaking in a Reuters interview on Monday.
He said, “The technical talks have been concluded yesterday and soon we will start this operation, comprehensive operations, against Daesh [ISIS].” Regional allies Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Jordan and European allies Britain and France may also participate in the operations, he added.
Cavusoglu has particularly commented on the PYD’s fight against ISIS in the region saying that “Yes, the PYD has been fighting Daesh ... But the PYD is not fighting for the territorial integrity or political unity of Syria. This is unacceptable.”
Therefore, Turkey prefers “the moderate opposition forces actually control the safe zone, or Daesh-free areas, in the northern part of Syria, not the PYD, unless they change their policies radically in that sense,” he said.
Cavusoglu previously declared a “comprehensive battle” against ISIS will start soon after Turkey and the US have agreed to use the Incirlik base.
The base is located 100 km (60 miles) from northwest Syrian border and Turkish airfield will also be used by the US-led coalition forces for air strikes against ISIS in order to execute a joint action plan for northern Syrian issues.
He has also blamed the PYD over border security and the displacement of Turkmens and Arabs from Tel Abyad. The PYD leader Salih Muslim previously denied that they have forced any displacement of the people from Tel Abyad.
In a recent interview with Sputnik News, he has also said that “We do not think to separate from Syria. The system we have established here will be part of the future Syria,” referring to the self-declared “cantons” of the PYD in northern Syria.
Turkish media recently reported that Turkey and the US signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) determining allied military planning in order to clear ISIS forces from an area between Marea and Jarablus in northern Syria. The reports define the length of the area as 98 kilometres.
The Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces will be deployed in the areas cleared from ISIS by the allied forces according to the MOU. Syrian refugees who stay in Turkey could be settled in the the cleared areas in a voluntary base following effective operations against the group, the media reports added.
There have been various and conflicting reports on the dimensions of the zone because American media and Turkish media have given different accounts on the length and depth of the region referring to their respective anonymous officials.
It has previously been reported that the ISIS-free zone will be in a 110-kilometre long area along Syrian border between Azez and Jarablus which will have about 60 kilometres deep in the Syrian territory reaching the province of Aleppo.
However, Reuters is now reporting that the area will be “a rectangle of border territory roughly 80 km (50 miles) long,” according to “officials familiar with the plans.”
The allies have also had some problems to name the zone. Turkey usually prefers the term “safe zones” or “security zones” in order to describe the areas while the US does not seem to intend to use a specific term for the zones.
Eventually, the allies have apparently settled with the term “ISIS-free zone,” which will be a kind of “de facto safe zone,” according to recent media reports.
The “zone” is also critically laid out between the two PYD-controlled “cantons” Kobani and Afrin. The PYD is able to expand its controlled territories in northern Syria after the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the militant wing of the PYD, captured Tel Abyad on June 15 from ISIS and joined its Kobane and the Jazira “cantons.”
The PYD expansion against ISIS has been supported by US-led air strikes until now.
Turkey considers the PYD as the Syrian branch of outlawed PKK which is recognised as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, NATO, the EU, and the US.
Turkey aims to keep the expansion of the 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 by the most recent National Security Council meeting in late June.
ISIS-held Jarablus is located in the west of Euphrates next to the PYD-controlled Kobani “canton.” A high-ranking PYD representative Idres Nassan recently said, “The initial plan is 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 considered by the US-led coalition forces for the “liberation” mission first.
If this scenario is to be realised, the PYD will overrun Jarablus and pass west of the Euphrates to reach the Azaz-Mare region and eventually Afrin which is another isolated Kurdish “canton” declared by the PYD in the far west of Syria.
Then, the PYD might take full control of the Turkish-Syrian border, confirming Turkey's suspicion that it might end up neighbouring a Kurdish entity which allegedly has strong relations with the PKK.
It seems that this possibility has forced Turkey to issue its “red line” to give a definite message towards allies and the PYD concerning northern Syria politics.
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 for the country.
Moreover, Turkey has recently been facing with the PKK attacks in southeastern and eastern regions following the Suruc suicide bombing that is believed to be carried out by ISIS, leaving 34 people dead on July 20.
More than 60 Turkish security officials have been killed in militant attacks mostly launched by PKK since the bombing while only one of them was killed by an ISIS attack.
In response to the recent PKK and ISIS attacks, Turkish security forces have stepped up efforts against the militant groups and launched air strikes in several positions used by PKK and ISIS in Northern Iraq and Syria respectively since late July.
Turkey has long been confronted with armed attacks in its southeastern regions by PKK, which was founded in 1974 by Abdullah Ocalan and his supporters.
Armed clashes and acts of violence have continued on and off for more than 30 years, and claimed more than 40,000 lives.