Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Wednesday has received an American congressional delegation tasked with supporting US mission against ISIS and examine humanitarian crisis in Iraq and Syria following Turkish announcement of “red lines” in northern Syria against the clashing militant groups and the Bashar Assad regime forces.
The delegation is led by US Senator Tim Kaine, who is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees, as the other members include Senator Joe Donnelly, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, Congressmen Jim McGovern, Stephen Lynch, Brian Higgins and Peter Welch.
Turkish daily Milliyet reported on Wednesday that Turkey will consider any incursion to the west of Euphrates in northern Syria along its border by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) as a “violation of the red line,” which was set by the latest National Security Council meeting. The Council has also announced that Turkey will not tolerate any attack from the north of Idlib by the Syrian regime forces.
According to Augusta Free Press (AFP), the talks between the American delegation and Davutoglu with the Turkish FM Mevlut Cavusoglu focused on a wide range of issues, including the US-Turkey cooperations, and common regional concerns on Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Russia.
“Kaine expressed his deep appreciation for the generosity of the Turkish government and people in addressing the Syrian refugee crisis and for Turkey’s ongoing military and intelligence cooperation,” AFP added.
The delegation arrived in Ankara on Wednesday, following its visit to the southeastern Turkish province of Gaziantep on Tuesday, which hosts a large number of Syrian refugees.
“In the face of the horrific brutality of the Assad regime, the will and hope of the Syrian people remain strong,” Kaine said during the Gaziantep visit.
“These meetings have reinforced my strong commitment to the creation of humanitarian safe zones to protect the Syrian people from the regime, ISIL [ISIS], al-Nusra, and any other calamity they face,” he added.
Along with US Senators Dick Durbin, Lindsey Graham and John McCain, Kaine had already called on President Barack Obama to establish the humanitarian zones in April.
Turkey has repeatedly called the international community to establish a safe-zone in northern Syria. However, the US government has not supported the idea.
The Turkish Presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin emphasised on Tuesday that Turkey has never used the terminology of a “buffer zone,” but spoke about the need of establishing a no-fly zone and safe-zone in the area for the civilians.
Turkey’s stance on the issue remains unchanged and discussions about the possible moves for creating a safe-zone continues.
The US State Department Spokesman John Kirby reacted to the Turkish demands on Tuesday, saying “The Defense Department has made it clear that they don’t believe there’s a need for that at this time, and that the use of coalition military assets in trying to effect a zone like that would entail an awful lot in terms of logistics, time, resources, and effort.”
When asked about the difference between a buffer-zone and a safe-haven, Kirby stated that, “In military terms, I’m not sure that there’s technical definitions for either one. I think it depends on the context in which you’re using it.”
“I don’t know that there’s much – it depends on how you define it and how you want that area defended and protected,” he said.
However, he also said, “They would have to decide how they would both make the decision, defend the decision, and implement it. That’s a national decision that they would have to speak to.”
Turkey and the US-led anti-ISIS coalition forces appear to have differences in terms of priorities in northern Syria, despite sharing many common interests.
Turkey is concerned by the PYD activities in northern Syria along its border, 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.
The PYD is considered by Turkey to be the Syrian affiliate of the outlawed PKK, which is recognised as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US, and EU.
The AFP reported that, “In May, Kaine also urged President Obama to significantly increase the number of Syrian refugees allowed to resettle in the United States.”
Turkey already hosts more than 1.7 million Syrian refugees who fled their homes due to the violence in their country, which broke out after the escalation of the Syrian Civil War in 2012.
The American delegation had also been in Iraq where they had focused political reconciliation and combating ISIS before their visit to Turkey.