American ambassador to Turkey John Bass announced that the US government has conveyed Turkey's concerns over Syria's territorial integrity and demographic changes in northern Syria which are shared by the Obama administration to the leadership of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is based in northern Syria along the Turkish border.
Speaking during the embassy’s reception on the celebration of the 239th Independence Day of the United States, Bass said, “Turkey and the US have common concerns against ISIS in northwestern Syria along the Turkish border. We continue to work together on threats posed by ISIS.”
Bass outlined three main principles for Turkish-American cooperation in order to cope with issues arising from the dynamics of the Syrian Civil War.
He first stated that ISIS should be prevented from controlling border areas in northern Syria along the Turkish frontier and every group who has a presence over the border should combat ISIS. He pointed out that the presence of ISIS along the border enables the group to cover most of its losses through smuggling contrary to the best efforts of the Turkish government.
Secondly, both countries observe the principle adhering the territorial integrity of a democratic Syria, he said.
Lastly, Turkey and the US agreed to allow ordinary people to conduct their routine business in the region and let others who left their homelands in order to save their lives from violent clashes return to their homes when they feel safe enough, he added.
“The American administration and Turkey have a consistent view concerning the principles and they are clear to have conveyed their expectations to the PYD,” Bass said.
The ambassador stressed that the allies are “clear to convey their expectations to the PYD to respect the mentioned principles in the areas where the group has recently been able to repel ISIS.”
Turkey recently raised its concerns over border security and the displacement of Turkmens and Arabs from Tel Abyad. The People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces captured the northern Syrian border district of Tel Abyad on June 15.
Tel Abyad is located between the PYD declared Kurdish Kobane and the Jazira “cantons” and has a strategic importance because it commands the major trade and smuggling routes to Raqqa which is the first major city conquered by ISIS. After taking control of Tel Abyad, the PYD is now able to join both “cantons.”
The YPG is the militant wing of the PYD, which is considered by Turkey as the Syrian affiliate of the outlawed PKK. The PKK is recognised as a terrorist group by Turkey, the US and EU.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan 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.
Turkish daily Milliyet reported Wednesday that the country will consider any incursion to the west of the Euphrates river in northern Syria along the Turkish border by the Kurdish PYD or any attack to the north of Idlib by Syrian regime forces as a “violation of the red line” which was set by the recent National security Council meeting.
Turkish daily Yeni Safak previously reported that Ankara is planning to establish a buffer zone along the 110-kilometre long Turkish border from Jarablus to the Oncupinar crossing [closer to Azez] at a depth of 28 kilometres to 33 kilometres and gave a directive to the Turkish Armed Forces [TSK] to take necessary measures.
Turkish media reports suggest that US Vice-President Joe Biden and Erdogan made an important telephone conversation on Tuesday. No statement has been issued by the leaders following the talk.
However, the Turkish daily Hurriyet reported an anonymous American official saying that “It would not be surprising that Biden expressed the Obama administration’s concerns connected to reports of a cross-border operation,” which is being considered by Turkey into northern Syria.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Thursday that his government will not drag Turkey into unchartered territory with which he refers to northern Syria unless the country’s national security is threatened.
Davutoglu on Wednesday also received an American congressional delegation tasked with supporting the US mission against ISIS and examining humanitarian crisis in Iraq and Syria.
US State Department Spokesman John Kirby replied a question when asked about the difference between US and Turkish views of the PYD saying that, “We understand their concerns, their security concerns about those groups in Syria. But there is a larger issue here, and that is the growth of ISIL [ISIS] in Iraq and in Syria,” during Washington’s daily press briefing on July 2.
Turkey and the US-led anti-ISIS coalition forces appear to have differences in terms of priorities in northern Syria, despite mostly sharing the same interests. Turkey is concerned by the PYD’s activities in northern Syria along the Turkish border as much as it is concerned with the actions of ISIS and the Assad regime.
However, 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 march.