Tensions Mount Between U.S. Allies Turkey, Kurdish YPG in Northern Syria

Fighters of the People's Protection Units (YPG), a mainly-Kurdish militia in Syria, fires their guns towards positions of militants of the so called Islamic State (IS) in Al Sinaa neighborhood, eastern Raqqa, Syria, 06 July 2017. Syrian activists say Islamic State group fighters are battling to repel the advance of …
Morukc Umnaber/ DPA/AFP

Turkey and the armed wing of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in northern Syria, both considered U.S. allies, have accused one another of firing first in recent weeks, claiming each has been forced to retaliate.

Although the United States supports the PYD and its militia People’s Protection Units (YPG), Turkey considers them offshoots of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK).

The PKK has been officially designated a terrorist group by Washington and Ankara. Turkey is America’s NATO ally.

In late June, Turkey’s military claimed it returned fire against PYD fighters who allegedly attacked Turkish positions near northern Syria’s Kurdish-controlled Afrin region, located near the country’s border with Turkey.

This week, YPG militiamen in Afrin claimed the Turkish military and Syrian rebels it supports shelled Kurdish-held towns in northern Syria.

Then on Friday, Hurriyet Daily News learned from the Dogan News Agency that the Turkish military had once again claimed it “retaliated against harassment fire” by the YPG in the Afrin region.

“A harassment fire was opened from the PYD-controlled Parsa Mount region in northern Syria [Afrin region] to the Turkish side of the border province of Kilis in the morning hours,” reports Hurriyet.

The alleged Turkish bombardment on Monday killed two people and injured seven others, claimed Rojhat Roj, a spokesman for the YPG.

Reuters reported, “The mounting tensions between two U.S. allies in northwest Syria threaten to open another major front in the multi-sided Syrian war.”

The YPG leader last week told Reuters that Turkey’s military presence near Kurdish-controlled areas in northern Syria amounted to a “declaration of war.”

In response, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said Turkey had no intentions to declare war but added that the country’s troops would respond to any hostile move by the YPG fighters.

“[Syrian] Rebels said last week that the Turkish deployment aimed to regain control of a string of Arab villages near the border which Kurdish-led militias seized last year,” noted Reuters.

Syria’s Afrin is also considered the home of the Russian troops in Kurdish-held northern Syria.

Throughout the Syrian civil war, Russia and Turkey have been on opposing sides of the conflict.

While Moscow supports the Iran-backed regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, Turkey is known to back opposition troops.

Nevertheless, both countries do consider the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) their common enemy and have cooperated on some issues in Syria.

Meanwhile NATO allies U.S. and Turkey now find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict.

Turkey is backing the Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels who have been recently fighting against the U.S.-allied YPG.

FSA fighters have received U.S. military assistance in the past.


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