Syrian Kurds to remove fortifications from Turkish border

A Syrian Kurdish demonstrator shouts slogans as she marches in the northeastern city of Qamishli on Aug. 27 during a protest against Turkish threats to invade the Kurdish region. (AFP)
Updated 03 September 2019

Syrian Kurds to remove fortifications from Turkish border

  • Measure is part of a deal to establish a safe zone along Syria’s northwest border

BEIRUT: A US-backed mostly Kurdish force in Syria on Tuesday carried out a patrol along with the US-led coalition near a border town with Turkey to select fortifications to be removed as part of an agreement to set up a safe zone along the country’s northwest border, a spokesman for the group said.

Mustafa Bali of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) tweeted that the patrol occurred near the town Tal Abyad on the border with Turkey, which seeks to set up a buffer zone along its southern border.

The SDF announced last week that it has begun withdrawing its fighters from the border towns of Tal Abyad and Ras Al-Ayn as part of a deal for the so-called safe zone in northeast Syria involving the US and Turkey.

Turkey has been pressing for a safe zone to ensure security on its border running east of the Euphrates River toward the Iraqi border. Turkey wants to control — in coordination with the US — a 19-25 mile (30-40km) deep zone within civil war-ravaged Syria.

Turkey wants the region along its border to be clear of Syrian Kurdish forces and has threatened on numerous occasions to launch a new operation in Syria against Syrian Kurdish forces if such a zone is not established.

Turkey sees the Syrian Kurdish fighters, who make up the majority of the SDF and are allied with the US, as terrorists aligned with a Kurdish insurgency within Turkey. American troops are stationed in northeast Syria, along with the Kurdish forces, and have fought Daesh together.

Bali tweeted that the SDF are working together with the US-led coalition “to make the agreement successful and to ease tensions on the border.”

Turkey and the US have set up a joint operation center for the planned zone along the border with Turkey but have disagreed over the size of the zone or the command structure of the forces to operate there.

“We do not have much time or patience regarding the safe zone which will be established along our entire border east of the Euphrates (river),” Erdogan recently said in a speech at a graduation ceremony at the National Defense University in Istanbul.

US President Donald Trump proposed the safe zone last year, having announced plans to withdraw US special forces from northern Syria but he later suspended the plan to ensure Washington’s Kurdish allies would be protected.

In the northern town of Azaz, two separate motorcycles rigged with explosives went off about three hours apart. The first blast in a market killed one person and wounded 11, while the second wounded five people outside a school in the town’s center, according the Azaz media center, an activist collective and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Azaz is controlled by Turkish troops and Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

The Syrian conflict has killed more than 370,000 people and driven millions from their homes since it started with the brutal repression of anti-regime protests in 2011.

US lawmakers set measure opposing Trump on Syria troop withdrawal

In this file photo taken on September 8, 2019 US troops walk past a Turkish military vehicle during a joint patrol with Turkish troops in the Syrian village of al-Hashisha on the outskirts of Tal Abyad town along the border with Turkish troops. (AFP)
Updated 16 October 2019

US lawmakers set measure opposing Trump on Syria troop withdrawal

  • Senate and House aides said lawmakers were working on legislation to impose stiffer sanctions on Turkey, hoping to force Turkish President Erdogan to halt his military campaign in northeastern Syria

WASHINGTON: US Democratic lawmakers, joined by some of President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans, introduced a resolution on Tuesday opposing Trump’s decision to withdraw US forces from Syria, the latest sign of deep disapproval in Congress of his action.
“We have always maintained that, while certainly needed, a sanctions package alone is insufficient for reversing this humanitarian disaster,” House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement introducing the resolution.
In addition to Pelosi and Schumer, the resolution was led by Representatives Eliot Engel, the Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Mike McCaul, the committee’s top Republican.
It also is backed by Senators Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Todd Young, a Republican member of that panel.
Senate and House aides said lawmakers were working on legislation to impose stiffer sanctions on Turkey, hoping to force Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to halt his military campaign in northeastern Syria.
Several sanctions bills were introduced in the Senate and House, supported by Democrats and some of Trump’s fellow Republicans, before Trump said he would impose sanctions.
Trump announced a set of sanctions on Monday to punish Ankara, and a senior Trump administration official said on Tuesday that Washington would threaten more sanctions to persuade Turkey to reach a cease-fire and halt its offensive. The measures — mainly a hike in steel tariffs and a pause in trade talks — were less robust than financial markets had anticipated. Trump’s critics derided them as too feeble to have an impact, and the Turkish currency recovered.