Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Raqqa Operation Starts in Weeks, Turkey Stresses Kurdish Forces will not Enter the Town | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Militants take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria’s northern Raqqa province in 2014. REUTERS

Ankara, Beirut-Ankara announced on Tuesday that an operation to liberate Syria’s Raqqa from ISIS will start in the coming weeks, asking for guarantees to prevent the “wrong groups” from participating in the offensive, in a reference to the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition formed by a majority of Kurdish members.

Meanwhile, residents of the Syrian town have expressed concern over reliving the experience of Ain Issa and Tal Abyad where residents were expelled by the SDF after taking control of the two towns. However, SDF members asserted that Raqqa -similar to other liberated areas – would remain for its residents.

Speaking at a news conference in Ankara alongside his Bosnian counterpart Igor Crnadak, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Tuesday that his country has informed Washington that it is wrong to enter Raqqa with “the wrong groups and with other terrorist organizations,” in reference to the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the military wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Ankara considers two terrorist organizations linked to Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.

Cavusoglu said the YPG would only be involved in a “siege” of Raqqa.

Last Sunday, the SDF announced the start of an operation to liberate Raqqa from ISIS, with the support of the U.S. and without Turkey.

However, Washington said it had agreed with Ankara on a long-term plan concerning Raqqa, adding the current developments were part of a siege operation, expected to last for a long time.

Cavusoglu said Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar, Turkey’s top military figure, told U.S. General Joseph Dunford during an Ankara visit on Sunday that the YPG would only be involved in a “siege” of Raqqa but would never enter the city.

The Turkish Foreign Minister said Ankara knew the U.S. was arming the YPG, adding it was “not right” for Washington to provide weapons to the “terrorist” organization.

A leading Kurdish officer told Ahsarq Al-Awsat that there would not be any confrontation between Raqqa’s residents and Kurds, saying on the contrary, “all forces will unite to face ISIS.”

The Kurdish source said: “Ankara is using those accusations to prevent the creation of a federal state north of Syria.”