Four Turkish soldiers killed in clashes with PKK, says ministry

Military vehicles pass as Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) fighters man a checkpoint on a highway connecting the Iraqi-Syrian border town of Rabia and the town of Snuny north of Mount Sinjar December 20, 2014. (REUTERS)
Updated 21 April 2019

Four Turkish soldiers killed in clashes with PKK, says ministry

  • Macron on Friday made clear of the importance to Paris of “the security of Turkey and a de-escalation along the Syrian-Turkish border,” the French presidency said

ISTANBUL, PARIS: Four Turkish soldiers were killed on Friday in clashes with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) near the border with Iraq, Turkey’s Defense Ministry said on Saturday.
Demiroren News Agency said a military base had been attacked in the mountainous Cukurca district of Turkey’s southeastern province of Hakkari, prompting the Turkish military to respond with a “large-scale” military operation.
“As part of ongoing operations on the Turkey-Iraq border, two soldiers were killed in clashes with terrorists despite all efforts to save them,” the ministry said, adding a total of four soldiers were killed and six wounded.
“Terrorists are under intense fire with the air operation and fire support vehicles in the region,” it said.
The PKK, which has waged an insurgency for autonomy in Turkey’s largely Kurdish southeast since 1984, is deemed a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU.
A day earlier, French President Emmanuel Macron hosted representatives of the Kurdish-led force that defeated Daesh extremists in Syria, drawing a sharp rebuke from Turkey’s Foreign Ministry.
Macron assured the Kurdish envoys of French support in their fight against the remaining militants, but Ankara accused the French leader of “seeking to confer artificial legitimacy on a faction of terrorist groups.”
“We condemn the reception by French President Emmanuel Macron of a delegation of so-called ‘Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF),” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in the statement.
In late March the US-backed SDF flushed out Daesh militants from their last bastion in Syria but the Kurdish-led force still warns that the militants remain a threat in places.
The SDF is an umbrella Kurdish-Arab force dominated by Kurds from the People’s Protection Units (YPG). It is regarded with huge distrust by neighboring Turkey which sees the YPG as a terror group.
Macron assured the visiting SDF representatives, who were not named, of the “active support of France in the fight against Daesh which continues to be a menace for collective security,” the presidency said in a statement.
Particularly important is the support in the “handling of terrorist fighters held as prisoners along with their families.”
European capitals are keeping a careful eye on the Daesh prisoners held by the SDF after the defeat of the militants, given many are dual nationals.
Macron also vowed that financial support would be allocated to “respond to the humanitarian needs and the socio-economic stabilization of civilian populations in Syria.”
The SDF were the West’s key ally in defeating Daesh and waged the bulk of the fighting on the ground.
But they fear being abandoned by their patrons now Daesh has been beaten, after US President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of American forces from Syria.
France’s past contacts with the SDF’s Syrian Kurds had already angered Turkey which regards the YPG as the Syrian branch of the PKK, which has waged a 35-year insurrection against the Turkish state.
Macron on Friday made clear of the importance to Paris of “the security of Turkey and a de-escalation along the Syrian-Turkish border,” the French presidency said.
But Aksoy said Macron’s move did not sit well with the French-Turkish alliance, and warned that “Turkey will not hesitate to take measures deemed necessary to protect its national security.”


Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

Updated 26 May 2020

Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

  • Syria records 20 new cases of coronavirus in largest single-day increase

BEIRUT/DAMASCUS: Traffic returned to a major highway in northeastern Syria for the first time in seven months on Monday, following Russian mediation to reopen parts of the road captured last year by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Syrian Kurdish media and a Syrian Kurdish official said several vehicles accompanied by Russian troops began driving in the morning between the northern towns of Ein Issa and Tal Tamr. 

The two towns are controlled by regime forces and Syrian Kurdish fighters while the area between them is mostly held by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Turkish troops and allied Syrian fighters captured parts of the highway known as M4 in October, when Ankara invaded northeastern Syria to drive away Syrian Kurdish fighters. The M4 links Syria’s coastal region all the way east to the Iraqi border.

Four convoys will drive on the M4 every day with two leaving from Tal Tamr and two from Ein Issa, according to the Kurdish ANHA news agency. The report said a convoy will leave from each town at 8 a.m., and another set of convoys will do the same, three hours later.

The ANHA agency added that the opening of the highway will shorten the trip between the two towns as people previously had to take roundabout, side roads.

“This is the first time the road has been opened” since October, said Mervan Qamishlo, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

Russia, a main power broker with Turkey in Syria, mediated the deal to reopen the highway, he said. Russia and Turkey back rival groups in Syria’s nine-year conflict.

Coronavirus cases

Syria reported 20 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday, the largest single-day increase to date.

The war-torn country has recorded 106 infections and four deaths so far, and new cases have increased in recent days with the return of Syrians from abroad.

Syria has kept an overnight curfew in place but has begun to open some of its economy after a lockdown. Doctors and relief groups worry that medical infrastructure ravaged by years of conflict would make a more serious outbreak deadly and difficult to fend off.