Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has criticised a new US plan to send forces to protect territory in Syria.
On Sunday, the US announced plans to create a 30,000-strong force consisting of fighters from the Kurdish-led Syrian Defence Forces (SDF), as well as new recruits, which will work as a border security force in Syria along the country’s borders with Iraq and Turkey.
However, the announcement drew criticism from Turkey. The SDF is led by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia, which Turkey considers an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK), an organisation fighting for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey. PKK has been in armed conflict with the Turkish regime since the 1980s, and is regarded as a terrorist organisation by Turkey. However, the US disputes this and has worked alongside the YPG in its battle against the so-called Islamic State (Daesh).
What has the response been?
The Guardian reports that in a speech yesterday in Ankara, Turkey, Erdoğan condemned the US announcement, and warned of a military response if the plan goes ahead: “A country we call an ally is insisting on forming a terror army on our borders. What can that terror army target but Turkey? Our mission is to strangle it before it’s even born.”
According to the BBC, the US-led coalition defended the decision, saying: “A strong border security force will prohibit Daesh’s freedom of movement and deny the transportation of illicit materials. This will enable the Syrian people to establish effective local, representative governance and reclaim their land.”
The new border force will act as a dividing line between territory controlled by Syrian pro-government forces and that under the control of the SDF in the country’s ongoing civil war. Syria’s government called the announcement a ‘blatant attack’ on its sovereignty, and announced its intention to win back control of the entire country and expel any SDF border force created by the US.
Russia, which has supported the Syrian government and the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, warned that the creation of a border force could lead to partitioning of Syria. In a press conference, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov called the move provocative.