Turkey, US at odds over YPG regiment

A US military commander met Kurdish fighters after the attack to show solidarity. (Reuters)
Updated 11 January 2018
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Turkey, US at odds over YPG regiment

ANKARA: Another crisis is brewing between Ankara and Washington over US backing of the Syrian-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
On Wednesday, Ankara summoned the chargé d’affaires of the US Embassy over reports that US troops have begun training some 400 YPG militants in northern Syria in an attempt to establish a new force, the North Army, to monitor the border with Turkey.
The training is reportedly being conducted at Aleppo’s Tishrin Dam on the Euphrates River and in Hasakah province.
US CENTCOM Commander Gen. Joseph Votel announced on Dec. 22 plans to set up border guard regiments in Syria in a bid to prevent the resurgence of Daesh.
This new development is likely to deal a fresh blow to already-fragile relations between the two NATO allies.
In recent weeks, President Donald Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis gave assurances that the US would stop delivering heavy weapons to the YPG.
The group is a local partner of the US in Syria, but Ankara considers it a terror organization due to its links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a war against the Turkish state for more than 30 years.
“The latest US move to train YPG forces shows once again that the Pentagon won’t reverse its Syria policy,” Ahmet K. Han, a Middle East expert at Istanbul Kadir Has University, told Arab News.
“Ankara should now give up hope that the heavy weapons that were supplied by the US to the YPG will be taken back.”
Han said the formation of a regiment with US assistance is a step toward state-building in northern Syria, which poses a major threat to Turkey’s national security.
“The fate of the Syrian conflict will be determined no longer by proxies, but by the states that support them,” he added.
“At this stage, Turkey should take action irrespective of whether it will be rational or not. For instance, it may initiate a military operation in the Kurdish-held Afrin canton.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday said: “We are losing patience with those trying to establish a terror corridor within earshot.”
In November, Kurds in northern Syria voted in local council elections. There will be elections for a regional Parliament on Jan. 19, which are widely seen as a move toward autonomy.
“Forming a Kurdish military entity is an attempt to regain power that the US has lost to Iran in recent years,” Enes Ayasli, a research assistant at Sakarya University in Turkey, told Arab News.
The formation of such an army will help the US to have a stronghold in Syria, and will indirectly help it regain influence in the Middle East, he said.
Against this latest move, Turkey must establish observation points in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province, he added.
“By doing so, Afrin could be besieged from every direction. Then its vulnerable position could be used as a trump card regarding the YPG issue,” Ayasli said.
“Any direct involvement (by Turkey) in the YPG-controlled area, or breaking off ties with the US, will cause nothing but more troubles,” he added.
“Ongoing clashes in Idlib, backed by Russian airstrikes, are a direct violation of the Astana de-escalation agreement. Conflict with Russia might leave Turkey vulnerable in Syria. Under these circumstances, Turkey can’t just break off ties with the US.”


Jordan reopens main border post with Syria after 3 years

Updated 17 min 31 sec ago
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Jordan reopens main border post with Syria after 3 years

  • The black metal border gate was opened from the Jordanian side of the crossing at 8:00 am (0500 GMT)
  • The crossing was a major link not only for direct trade between the neighboring countries but also for longer-distance transit

JABER BORDER CROSSING, Jordan: Jordan on Monday reopened its main border crossing with war-torn Syria, a key Middle East trade route, after a three year closure, an AFP photographer reported.
The black metal border gate was opened from the Jordanian side of the crossing at 8:00 am (0500 GMT) as more than a dozen police and customs officials stood nearby, the photographer said.
Several cars bearing Jordanian license plates queued to enter Syria, the photographer added, as travelers expressed their joy at being able to cross the border.
“Today is a celebration for us and I wanted to be among the first to cross the border,” said Syrian businessman Mohammed Hisham as he waited for his turn to enter Syria from Jordan where he now lives.
Jordanian taxi driver Imad Sariheen called the reopening of Jaber a source of “great happiness for all of us” which will help ease “economic hardships” caused by the closure of the crossing.
“Our conditions have worsened over the past years. Our work (driving taxis) was halted because of the closure of the border between Jordan and Syria,” he added.
The border crossing, known as Jaber on the Jordanian side and Nassib on the Syrian side, was a key trade route before Amman closed it after the post was overrun by rebels in April 2015.
The crossing was a major link not only for direct trade between the neighboring countries but also for longer-distance transit, which was a signficant source of revenue.
The reopening comes after Syrian government troops retook their side of the crossing in July under a deal with rebel fighters brokered by Moscow.
After seven years of civil war, Syria’s government has recaptured large swathes of territory from rebels with backing from Russia, but it still only controls around half the 19 crossing points with neighbors Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey.
Jordanian government spokeswoman Jumana Ghneimat announced the intended reopening of the Jaber crossing on Sunday.
She said in a statement that the decision was taken after “Jordanian and Syrian technical teams agreed on the final measures needed to reopen the border during a meeting held at the Jaber crossing.”
Syria’s Interior Minister Mohammed Al-Shaar also confirmed on Sunday the decision to reopen Jaber.
According to an agreement between Jordan and Syria seen by AFP, the traffic of passenger and goods at the border crossing will resume daily from 0500 GMT to 1300 GMT.
Syria also requested that Jordan send an expert to help with border checks at Nassib where there are no X-ray machines, according to the terms of the agreement.
The accord stipulated that travelers entering Jordan from Syria “must obtain prior to their trip a security permit” from Jordanian authorities.
And those who plan to use Jordan as a transit stop en route to a third country must show proof of their residency permit in Syria as well as an entry visa to the country they plan to visit.