Mazloum Abdi, Commander-in-Chief of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), on Sunday welcomed a 29 November UN Security Council Briefing that warned against a possible Turkish ground operation against Kurdish forces in northern Syria.
“International positions of @UN rejecting Turkish operation are welcome,” Abdi said on Twitter. “Proud of our international partnership in stabilizing #NE Syria’s region. Hope the positions applied on the ground to end Turkish army attacks & find just political solution for Syrian crisis & Kurdish issue,” he continued.
Abdi’s latests statement came one day after the US daily Washington Post published his opinion peace reminding Washington that Kurds who have fought against ISIS are “America’s most loyal ally in Syria”, amidst the Turkish government’s repeated announcements that a ground operation against the SDF is imminent.
The SDF and its armed groups have formed the backbone of US-led coalition fighting against the Islamic State (ISIS) since 2014, while Washington’s NATO ally Ankara sees it as a security threat and as a group linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“For the people of our region, the military defeat of the Islamic State was never our only goal. At every step of our fight against the terror group on the battlefield, we took steps to crush the ideology behind it by building a system based on inclusion, pluralism and equality,” Abdi wrote in the Washington Post, indicating that the aspirations of people living in northern Syria are not simply restricted to ensuring security.
“In every city we liberated, our people built local administrations that, for the first time in Syria, represented all ethnicities and religions and gave women equal power,” he added.
Abdi underlined that the system formed under the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) is not perfect and has been criticised at times for falling short of Western standards, but recalled that it had to be built while at war and under economic blockade.
“Now the Turkish offensive against our region is putting all of that under renewed threat,” the commander said in relation to Turkish airstrikes against Kurdish regions in northern Syria and Iraq that started on 20 November following a deadly bomb attack in Istanbul earlier in the month. Ankara accuses Kurdish groups of organising the attack, while the SDF strongly denies any connection.
Turkey’s shelling and air raids on northern Syria have led to the deaths of at least 10 civilians and have caused material damage to the civilian infrastructure. A new Turkish ground invasion into the northern Syrian city of Kobanê will mean further chaos, instability and in-fighting and the presence of more extremists, according to Abdi, who recalled the situation in Afrin, Ras al-Ayn and Tell Abyad, that have been under the control of the Turkish army and Turkey-backed Syrian rebels since 2018.
“We ask no one to fight for us,” Abdi said, stressing his people’s determination to resist. “What we ask is for the world to be with us in a more difficult task: peace,” he said.
The commander said that there was no real inherent hatred between Turks and Kurds and the conflict around the Kurdish issue was largely political. “We lived in peace with our Turkish neighbours” he added, referring to the time of peace negotiations between Ankara and the PKK that collapsed in 2015.
“If they were to restart, we would be able to do so again,” Abdi added, and called for the international community to help rebuilding peace.
“Had the international community stood firmly against a Turkish invasion and spoken up for peace, things may have gone very differently,” he said, adding that they were ready to play a helpful role in restarting these talks and reaching the peace that they seek.
Abdi’s comments echoed those of the UN Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria Geir O. Pedersen made on 29 November.
“In repeated briefings, I have warned of the dangers of military escalation in Syria. I am here in person today to tell you that escalatory dynamics are taking place, and this is worrying and dangerous,” Pedersen said.
“I fear what this would mean for Syrian civilians, and also for wider regional stability. And I equally fear a scenario where the situation escalates in part because there is today no serious effort to resolve the conflict politically,” he added.