Turkey won’t join Raqqa Offensive if Kurds Involved
Turkey will not participate in an offensive to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital, if Kurdish forces are also involved, a spokesperson for the Turkish president said on Thursday.
“Negotiations are still ongoing, there is nothing certain yet. Our principled stance is the same as it was with Manbij and Jarablus. It is out of the question for us to take part in an operation in which the PYD/YPG are present,” Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın said to state-run TRT Haber.
Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and People’s Protection Units (YPG) to be extensions of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which Ankara has named a terrorist organization. Turkish officials and leaders have repeatedly condemned American cooperation with the Kurdish forces in Syria.
“In principle, we support Raqqa and the other Syrian cities being cleansed from Daesh [ISIS], but as we said before, we have principles and conditions on the issue,” Kalın said.
Turkey militarily intervened in the Syrian conflict on August 24, forcing Islamic State (ISIS) militants to retreat from the northwestern border. Ankara has vowed to set up a buffer zone in that area to also prevent any more Kurdish-led advances on the western side of the Euphrates River.
Earlier this week, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said his nation is willing to assist in an operation to force ISIS from Raqqa, but only as part of a coalition. “Turkey will not act unilaterally to liberate Raqqa,” he told Reuters. “We will get involved in actions taken by the coalition forces,” referring to the US-led global coalition fighting ISIS.
The United States, meanwhile, is considering bolstering its support for the Kurdish forces. US National Security Council staff are developing a proposal to directly arm the Kurds in advance of the liberation of Raqqa. No decision has been made as of yet but the US has continually insisted the Kurdish forces are a key ally on the ground in Syria.