DW: NATO allies clash as Turkey attacks US-backed Kurds in Syria

Germany’s Deutsche Welle (DW) wrote on Tuesday that Turkish military offensive against US-allied militias in the Afrin region of northern Syria is putting NATO in a difficult position. “As tensions between the NATO allies escalate, analysts wonder how far Ankara is prepared to go,” said DW.

Stating that NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller’s trip to Ankara on Monday provoked heightened interest, given that NATO’s two largest armies stand on opposite sides in the operation, DW underlined that NATO officials in Brussels stressed that Gottemoeller was not in Ankara because of the heightened tensions between Turkey and the US, nor would she be playing any kind of mediation role in the dispute.

“But many analysts say the standoff in Afrin is hotter than it looks,” wrote the German news outlet and stated that “The influential Soufan Group, a US-based security intelligence strategy firm, said in its latest brief that the Turkish action is an example of the new coalition between Turkey, Russia and Iran, which are ‘united in a desire to block US interests in the country.’ The US will have to back down or ratchet up the conflict with its NATO ally Ankara, the Soufan Group suggests.”

Marc Pierini, a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, who also served as the European Union’s ambassador there from 2006 to 2011, told DW the Turkish President appears to be sacrificing what little goodwill there may be remaining in Europe for his own political aims. “Essentially it’s putting Turkey at odds with NATO in terms of how allies operate between themselves,” he said. “That’s the main effect. But I guess the risk is perfectly understood in Ankara and it’s the price to pay to control the political scene.”

Flexing military muscle in the assault on the Kurdish YPG fighters in Syria will likely go down well among Turks, Pierini explained to DW. “It helps immensely in ramping up the nationalist narrative at home,” he said. Erdoğan has created a “huge operation to crush a somewhat small threat” which likely could have been resolved diplomatically, he added. But, sounding a note of warning, Pierini said the problem is that “nobody knows when and where it will end.”

DW has also reminded that on the diplomatic front, Erdoğan has not yet moved beyond calls he made last week for NATO to  criticize  US support for the Kurdish YPG forces in Syria. He has not instructed his diplomats to reiterate that demand at alliance headquarters, and NATO sources say Turkey has not initiated any briefings on its military action in northern Syria.

However, in New York, the UN Security Council on Monday refrained from condemning the offensive or calling for its end. In Brussels, meanwhile, the issue has not been added as a formal agenda item for Wednesday’s weekly North Atlantic Council meeting.

On Tuesday, a US delegation is having talks in Ankara after Turkey launched a military operation into Syria’s Afrin province. The delegation, led by Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Jonathan Cohen and officials from the Department of Defense, are in Ankara for talks as part of a joint working group that meets periodically.

According to a report by Hürriyet daily news, they are meeting in the Foreign Ministry with their Turkish partners headed by Ahmet Muhtar Gün, deputy secretary of the ministry. The working group’s agenda includes a number of issues that have led to tension in bilateral relations in recent months including the visa crisis and ongoing investigations of US consular staff.

In another meeting in the afternoon, US Department of Defense officials, headed by Cohen, will discuss the “struggle against terrorism” at the General Staff, where the Turkish side will brief them about the ongoing military operation. In Ankara, the U.S. delegation is expected to make a detailed presentation on their military plans for Syria.


Meanwhile, Turkish jets have also destroyed shelters and weapon emplacements of the outlawed PKK in northern Iraq, the Turkish military announced on Tuesday. According to the Turkish General Staff, the airstrikes targeted PKK camps in the Upper Zab region when PKK militants were preparing for an attack against military posts and bases located at the border line.

Airstrikes on PKK targets in northern Iraq, where the PKK has its main base in the Qandil region, near the Iranian border, have been carried out regularly since July 2015, when the PKK resumed its armed campaign. The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey as well as the US and EU. In its terror campaign against Turkey, which has lasted for more than three decades, over 40,000 people have been killed.

Qatar’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday that Turkey’s counterterrorist operation in Syria’s Afrin region was motivated by legitimate security concerns. “The launching of the Turkish military operation last Saturday was motivated by legitimate concerns related to its national security and the security of its borders, in addition to protecting Syria’s territorial integrity from the danger of secession,” Qatar’s official QNA news agency quoted ministry spokesperson Lulwah Rashid Al Khater as saying.

“Turkey, a NATO member, has always been a stabilizing factor in the region,” she said. Al Khater added that Qatar is “fully confident of the Turkish Republic’s keenness to preserve the safety of civilians and the unity of Syrian territory”.

On Monday evening  sympathisers of the PYD/PKK attacked Turkish citizens at Germany’s Hannover airport Monday after a verbal confrontation over Turkey’s military operation in northwest Syria. German police said dozens of protestors and passengers clashed after sympathizers of the PYD/PKK attempted to hold an unauthorized demonstration at the airport.

Multiple videos posted on social media showed the pro-PYD/PKK protestors shouting anti-Turkey slogans and punching Turkish passengers following a verbal exchange. Hannover police said officers had to use pepper spray to prevent further clashes and later opened a criminal investigation against a number of suspects. At least two people were slightly injured during the brawl.

Supporters of the PYD/PKK have organized demonstrations in various German cities to protest Turkey’s ongoing military operation against the terrorist group’s targets in northwest Syria.

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