Syria Kurds say US to ‘adjust’ weapons deliveries

Fighters of Kurdish Peshmerga forces get ready for an operation in the city of Sinjar, in this December 20, 2014 file photo, at the Mount Sinjar, south-west of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. (AFP)
Updated 28 November 2017

Syria Kurds say US to ‘adjust’ weapons deliveries

QAMISHLI, Syria: Washington will “adjust” its delivery of weapons to an anti-terrorist alliance in Syria dominated by Kurdish fighters, Kurdish officials said on Monday, insisting that collaboration with the US will “continue.”
The comments come after Turkey said it had received assurances from the White House that it would halt supplies of weapons to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the main Kurdish militia in Syria.
The US began supplying weapons directly to the YPG earlier this year as part of its support for the anti-terrorist Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance, which is dominated by the Kurdish militia.
The decision deeply angered Ankara, which considers the YPG a “terrorist” group.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Friday that US President Donald Trump had told Turkey the weapons deliveries would end.
“Mr Trump said he gave a clear order and that after this, weapons would not be supplied to the YPG, essentially he said this nonsense should have been ended earlier,” Cavusoglu said at a press conference in Ankara.
Washington was less explicit, however, describing only “pending adjustments” to its support for the YPG, which forms the backbone of the SDF that ousted the Daesh group from Raqqa last month.
Kurdish officials said on Monday that any changes to weapons deliveries were the natural consequence of their successes against Daesh, and not a reflection of any change in their ties with Washington.
“There are no changes to the relations between the Syrian Democratic Forces and the US administration,” said Abdel Karim Amr, an official with the Kurdish semi-autonomous administration in northern Syria.
“Obviously, there will be an adjustment in the delivery of arms to the SDF after the elimination of IS (Daesh), but there is no change in US policy regarding coordination” with the alliance, he added.
“The support will continue until we eliminate all that remains of IS’s presence in the entire region where there is coordination between the US administration and the SDF,” said Amr, who is charged with external relations for the Kurdish administration.
He described Turkey’s statements on the issue as “incorrect” and “imprecise.”
“We are the partners of the international coalition that is fighting terrorism, and that partnership will continue,” added Mustefa Bali of the SDF’s press office.
“We still have much to do with our partners in the coalition,” he added.
The SDF has been a key partner of the US-led coalition against Daesh, and together they have driven the terrorists from strongholds including their one-time de facto Syrian capital Raqqa.
But the relationship has caused tensions between Washington and Ankara, which launched its own military intervention in Syria last year targeting both Daesh and the YPG.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said on Monday Washington must honor the pledge to end weapons provisions to the Kurdish fighters.
“The ‘We will not give weapons’ remarks from a US president for the first time is important, but it will lose value if it is not implemented. It would be deceiving the world,” Bozdag said.

Syria vows to bring Kurdish-held areas back under control

An SDF fighter fires a gun toward a part of Baghouz where remaining Daesh militants are holding out in their last position, in the countryside of Deir Ezzor on Monday. (AFP)
Updated 2 min 1 sec ago

Syria vows to bring Kurdish-held areas back under control

  • US-backed Kurds battle militants in their last patch of territory in Baghouz

DAMASCUS: Syrian regime forces will reclaim control of northeastern areas controlled by the US-backed Kurds, whether by force or through reconciliation, the defense minister warned Monday.

Marginalized for decades, Syria’s minority Kurds have carved out a de-facto autonomous region across some 30 percent of the nation’s territory since the devastating war broke out in 2011.

Backed by a US-led coalition, Kurdish forces have spearheaded an offensive in Syria against Daesh.

Washington’s shock December announcement that it would withdraw its troops from Syria has sent the Kurds scrambling to rebuild ties with the Damascus regime, but talks so far have failed to reach a compromise.

Syrian Defense Minister Ali Abdullah Ayoub said the Syrian regime will recapture territory controlled by Kurdish-led forces in the same way it “liberated” other parts of Syria.

“The only card that remains in the hands of the Americans and their allies is” the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), he said, referring to the force leading the battle to wipe out the last remnant of the Daesh’s “caliphate.”

“The Syrian government will deal with this issue in one of two ways: A reconciliation agreement or liberating the territory they control by force,” he said at a joint press conference with the military chiefs of staff of Iran and Iraq.

His comments come as the SDF, backed by the US-led coalition, battle militants in their last patch of territory in the village of Baghouz near the Iraqi border.

Eight years into a war that has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions, Syrian regime forces control almost two-thirds of the country.

Just two areas remain beyond their control: The militant-held northwestern region of Idlib, and the third of the country under the control of the SDF.

Ayoub on Monday said Idlib will also be recaptured by regime forces.

“The Syrian government will reassert its complete control over all Syrian territory sooner or later,” he said. “Idlib is no exception.”

The Idlib region borders Turkey and is dominated by an alliance led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate, Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham.

Idlib has been protected from a massive offensive by Bashar Assad’s regime since September, thanks to a buffer zone deal agreed by Damascus’s ally Russia and rebel backer Turkey.

But it has been hit by sporadic regime shelling. The defense minister’s comments come after a rare meeting with the military chiefs of staff of Iraq and Iran in Damascus.

Ayoub stressed the importance of cooperation and coordination between the three militaries to combat mutual threats.

He said what emerged from talks “will help us to continue to confront challenges, dangers and threats” posed by terrorism.

Daesh seized large parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq in 2014, but has since lost most of that to various offensives, including by the Russia-backed regime.

US-backers forces said they are facing difficulties defeating Daesh. A spokesman said their effort is being slowed by mines, tunnels, and the possibility of harming women and children still in the village.

Dozens of men and women were seen walking around the besieged Daesh encampment in Baghouz on Sunday, as Kurdish fighters watched from a hilltop close by.

SDF spokesman Kino Gabriel said the camp was approximately 250 km in size — much the same area it was five weeks ago, when the SDF said it was going to finally conclude the battle.

“We are facing several difficulties regarding the operations,” Gabriel told reporters outside Baghouz Sunday.