The struggle against the Islamic State (ISIS) in northern Syria necessitates measures being taken against Turkey and other powers that support the jihadist group, said Democratic Union Party (PYD) co-chair Salih Muslim on Saturday.
The Kurdish politician told Fırat News Agency that the visit of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army General Mark Milley to a US base in the Kurdish-controlled region of northeast Syria last week was nothing extraordinary.
“They have troops here and he has a right to visit,” Muslim said. “It is quite normal. It was a visit made to evaluate operational methods, recent changes and security,” he added.
On Monday, following Milley’s visit, the Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned the US ambassador demanding an explanation.
Ankara sees the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and its armed forces the People’s Protection Units (YPG) as being affiliated to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and says Kurdish-controlled territories in northeast Syria pose a national security threat to Turkey.
The SDF forms the backbone of the US-led international coalition which has been fighting against ISIS in north Syria since 2014.
“Many comments were made after this visit. It became part of the Turkish state’s agenda and there were claims that it was a visit made to show support to the SDF,” the Kurdish politician said.
“Those lands do not belong to Turkey. The Turkish state has no right to intervene in this visit,” Muslim said.
Muslim noted that he had no information on whether or not Milley had had a meeting with the SDF leaders.
Milley’s visit came as the jihadist group was escalating its attacks in northern Syria, signalling a resurgence, facilitated by security weaknesses that emerged as a result of Turkey’s operations in Kurdish-controlled areas in the country, ongoing since November.
Muslim recalled that Turkey’s attacks have continued despite the twin earthquakes on 6 February that caused massive destruction both in southern Turkey and in northwest Syria.
The politician added that the United States is aware of the fact that the struggle against ISIS in northeast Syria needs to continue, as the jihadi group also poses a threat to Western countries.
“The power behind ISIS is obvious. We have observbed an escalation in ISIS attacks during the Turkish state’s threats of assaults,” Muslim said, referring to Ankara’s statements about a new ground operation to be launched against SDF-controlled Rojava in northeast Syria before the earthquake.
“Measures need to be taken against the Turkish state, which shows support to ISIS. There is a weakness in that regard. This gap needs to be filled, and, in addition to the struggle against ISIS, a joint struggle should be carried out against the Turkish state and other powers that support ISIS,” Muslim said.