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A Review of Some Official Statements on the Ongoing Olive Branch Operation

Courtesy: EIRNS, Christopher Lewis

Turkish military operations against the town of Afrin in the northwest of Syria continue for the third day. The Turkish operation is aimed against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) which they dominate, on the claim that they are fully collaborating with the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) which Turkey is at war with inside Turkey. Their aim is apparently to push the SDF and YPG back to the east of the Euphrates. The Turks had warned the United States, which has been supporting the SDF in its fight against ISIS that if the SDF was not withdrawn to the east of the Euphrates, as had been agreed between the two countries over two years ago, it would attack.

“Turkey is a NATO ally. It’s the only NATO country with an active insurgency inside its borders. And Turkey has legitimate security concerns,” U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters in a plane headed for Asia on Jan. 21. Mattis said that the overall success against ISIS does not remove many of  Turkey’s concerns, therefore it is “easy to understand” why Ankara is worried that the conflict will extend beyond the Syrian border. “Turkey was candid,” Mattis told reporters. “They warned us before they launched the aircraft that they were going to do it. We are very alert to it. Our top levels are engaged and were working through it,” he said.

Despite public statements that might say otherwise, Turkey’s Olive Branch Operation has the de facto acknowledgment of both Russia and the United States, according to {Hurriyet Daily News} Chief Editor Murat Yetkin. Yetkin said the SDF leader on Jan. 20 said the U.S., Russia, and Turkey were equally responsible for the attack on them. Murat Karayilan, the current leader of the PKK, pointed out that Russia has allowed Turkey to use the airspace it controls. And Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told journalists, “We have no airspace problem at the moment….

There is 24/7 coordination regarding airspace. We are working to eliminate Iran’s concerns, and Russia does not have objections.”  NATO announced on Jan. 21 that “every country has the right to self-defense,” a response not possible without U.S. consent. At the same press briefing Yildirim said the “operation was carried out after contacts with the [Syrian] regime through Russia.” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu said an official note was given in writing to the Syrian Consulate in Istanbul before the operation, saying Turkey had no intentions against Syria’s territorial integrity and only “terrorist elements” were being targeted. 

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Jan. 22, “Turkey reacted because of Washington’s cooperation with the SDF, which Ankara sees as a terrorist group. Either it is a misunderstanding of the whole situation or a deliberate provocation. We have already drawn attention to the fact that the U.S. have embarked on the creation of alternative authorities in large parts of Syrian territory,” Lavrov said. “There needs to be a role for Kurds in the Syrian political process, but that role must work on a common platform: All members of the Syrian political settlement must respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria.” [DEA]

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