Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Ankara Tests Moscow, Washington by Tightening the Noose on Afrin | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A Syrian Democratic Forces fighter stands at a cemetery during a funeral for SDF fighters killed by ISIS militants in Raqqa, at Tal Abiad, Syria June 23, 2017. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

Ankara, Beirut- Ankara announced on Thursday it would launch a military operation to tighten the noose on the city of Afrin in the Syrian Aleppo province and “cleanse” it from terrorists.

The announcement is a sign that Turkey would attack the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military wing, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

The Turkish statement is also considered a test of the strength of Turkey’s agreements with Russia, which owns a military station near Afrin and a test to Washington, which supports the Kurds in their battle against ISIS in Raqqa, which is the terrorist group’s stronghold in Syria.

Diplomatic sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Ankara was not satisfied regarding the US position to support the YPG and the deployment of US forces along the border of Kurdish-controlled areas in Syria.

“A large operation launched by the Turkish army in Afrin will constitute a mortal blow to the Turkish-US cooperation and will negatively affect the relations of both countries,” the sources said.

They added that Washington was currently trying to maintain a balance in its ties with each of Ankara and Syria’s Kurds.

Earlier, Turkish deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak uncovered contacts made between the Turkish Foreign Ministry and the National Intelligence Organization with concerned parties concerning the possibility of launching an operation in Afrin.

“The Afrin region needs to be cleared of terror elements and terrorists in order to protect the safety of Aazaz, Mareh, Al-Bab and even Idlib,” he said.

For his part, Brett McGurk, the US special envoy to the coalition against ISIS, said: “We continue to consult with the Turks concerning a possible escalation in the countryside of Aleppo. It is certain that we wouldn’t want anything to disrupt the Raqqa campaign.”

He spoke to channel Al Aan TV while he was in Syria to visit Raqqa.

McGurk’s statement came when YPG forces and Arab fighters were closing down the last road leading to Raqqa.

Meanwhile, battles continued in the city of al-Baath, in the province of Quneitra, south of the country.