Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

US Official Visits Raqqa as Turkey Launches Airstrikes on Syria’s Kurds | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Syrian refugees wait to enter Turkey after fleeing violence in Syria on the Syrian-Turkish border in Shamm Alqrain village, northern countryside of Aleppo January 13, 2014. REUTERS/Mahmoud Hebbo

Ankara, Beirut- The US chief envoy to the anti-ISIS group coalition has visited Syria, where he met the local council set to take over the rule of Raqqa once the terrorist force is defeated.

Brett McGurk told members of Raqqa Civil Council that it has Washington’s full support once the municipality takes over operations in the city.

Kurdish sources told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the two sides have discussed the means to promote stability in the region, the future of Raqqa after its liberation, as well as the region’s humanitarian needs.

Meanwhile, the Kurdish army launched on Wednesday airstrikes against the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit in northern Syria, in response to the latter’s firing at factions from the Free Syrian Army, which is mainly backed by Ankara.

Ara News quoted military sources as saying that the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and allied factions of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have brought military reinforcements to the northern countryside of Aleppo province to impede the Turkish progress towards Afrin district.

While Ankara regards the YPG as a terrorist group, Washington is arming and training the Kurdish faction to become more efficient in fighting ISIS.

Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary James Mattis said on Wednesday that the regime of Bashar al-Assad appeared so far to have observed a warning this week from Washington not to carry out a chemical weapons attack.

The White House said on Monday it appeared the Syrian military was preparing to conduct a chemical weapons attack, warning that Assad and his forces would “pay a heavy price” if it did so.

“It appears that they took the warning seriously,” Mattis told reporters flying with him to Brussels for a meeting of NATO defense ministers.

On a different note, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey could launch a new cross-border operation in northern Syria.

In an interview with the Russian daily Izvestiya, Erdogan said: “Some negative processes are currently underway in Syria.”

“If this sparks a threat to our borders, we will react as we did with Operation Euphrates Shield,” he added.

Meanwhile, Mattis met with his Turkish counterpart Fikri Isik in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss developments in Syria, in particular the US cooperation with Kurdish militias, and guarantees submitted by Washington of disarming the YPG following the liberation of Raqqa.