Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told U.S. special representative Ambassador James Jeffrey on Tuesday that Turkey wants Syrian Kurdish militia forces to abandon the border region.
Turkish forces have reportedly clashed with Kurds in the area, prompting Turkey to move more armor and artillery into Syria as it braces for the potentially catastrophic battle for Idlib province.
Akar and Jeffrey discussed the Turkish incursion into Syria, an operation Turkey has justified as necessary to create a buffer zone against Kurdish militia aligned with the separatist PKK party.
Turkey regards nearly all Kurdish forces in Syria as PKK allies, as the Turkish Defense Ministry indicated in its readout of the Tuesday talks: “Syrian latest developments and the discomfort created by the presence of PKK/PYD/YPG terror organization were discussed during the meeting.”
According to the Defense Ministry, Akar told the American envoy that Turkey will fight to protect its “rights and interests” in Syria and demanded Kurdish forces to “abandon the region.”
For his part, Ambassador Jeffrey stressed the importance of cooperation between U.S. and Turkish forces to keep the peace in tense spots like the city of Manbij.
He also restated the U.S. position that Syria’s impending military operation against Idlib province will “risk the lives of humanitarian workers and Syrian civilians, destroy civilian infrastructure, imperil the prospects for a political settlement in Syria, fuel support for terrorism, and harm regional stability.”
Turkey has indicated considerable unease with the Idlib offensive, but much of its energy is focused on Kurdish forces in the border area. According to Iran’s FARS news service, Kurdish sources claim there was a significant clash between Kurdish and Turkish forces in the Afrin region on Monday, with “heavy casualties” inflicted on the Turks and their Syrian militia allies.
These reports say Turkish forces in Syria are now on high alert and responding to the Kurdish attacks with artillery, tanks, drones, and fighter jets.
Turkey’s Andalou Agency reported on Tuesday the Turkish army is moving more tanks and howitzers into Syria, presumably either to fight the Kurds or to brace for fallout from the Idlib offensive.