Allegations of Turkey’s involvement in the ongoing conflicts in Deir ez-Zor (Dêrezor), Syria were previously articulated by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Commander Mazloum Abdi. In a press conference on Wednesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan both implicitly acknowledged the allegations and issued a veiled threat.
Foreign Minister Fidan broke his silence on the conflicts in Deir ez-Zor during a joint press conference with the European Union Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, on Wednesday. Fidan stated, “What we see is just the beginning,” in response to a question about whether the conflicts pose a threat to Turkey’s border security.
Fidan claimed that the northern regions of Syria are “under YPG occupation” and predicted a rebellion against this occupation by Arab tribes. He further alleged that the People’s Protection Units (YPG), backed by the United States, has subjugated Arab lands.
Fidan’s statements lend indirect support to earlier claims by SDF Commander Mazloum Abdi, who asserted that both Ankara and Damascus are working against Kurdish forces in Syria. Abdi pointed out that many armed groups fighting the SDF were dispatched by the Syrian government, and highlighted concurrent Turkish attacks on Manbij (Minbîj) and Tal Tamir (Til Temir) as tensions escalated in Deir ez-Zor.
Journalist Ehmed Mihemed has also reported that the SDF’s current operation in Deir ez-Zor, targeting hidden ISIS cells and drug networks, is not the Arab-Kurdish conflict that Turkish media suggests. He verified that Turkey backs the paramilitary groups opposing the SDF.
Syrian Foreign Minister Fayssal Mikdad corroborated Abdi’s claims by admitting that the Syrian Arab Army intervened in Deir ez-Zor’s unrest, indicating external involvement.
Deir ez-Zor is a resource-rich province near the Iraq border, mainly populated by Arab tribes, many of which have allied with the SDF against ISIS. The province is under partial SDF control, a coalition comprising various ethnic groups including Kurds, Arabs, and Armenians.
Contradicting Fidan’s assertions, independent observers state that the Deir ez-Zor Military Council is ethnically diverse, including Kurds, Arabs, Armenians, Assyrians, and Turkmens. They emphasise that the majority of SDF forces are Arab, dispelling the notion of an ethnic conflict in the operation.