Turkey Suspected Of Using Chemical Weapons Against Syria, Issues Denial

Bekir Bozda
Bekir Bozda
Author

21 February, 2018

Turkey is a critical North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally, hosting about 1,500 American military personnel and aircraft at Incirlik Air Base, a staging point for the fight against Islamic State.

A senior Turkish official has denied the claims by a monitoring group and Syrian state media that Turkey's military used chemical weapons on civilians in its operation against the Kurdish YPG fighters in northwestern Syria. During Tillerson's visit the two allies agreed to form a new "mechanism" to coordinate actions in Syria more closely going forward.

Kurdish officials said they had informed the United States army about their contacts with Damascus, adding that "the Americans did not mind".

Birusk Hasaka, a spokesman for the Kurdish YPG militia in Afrin, told Reuters that Turkish bombardment hit a village in the northwest of the region, near the Turkish border.

According to him, the YPG alliance with the U.S. was brokered purely against Daesh, while the Kurdish forces fight "for the stability of Syria" and strive to bring about "an early resolution of the Syrian conflict within a united Syria".

Turkey considers the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), active in Syria, and its armed wing YPG, to be "terrorist groups" with ties to the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Turkish forces immediately responded to the attack by targeting PYD/PKK positions in Afrin, Syria via air and land strikes.

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Humanitarian organizations have repeatedly denounced that the Turkish onslaught against Syrian territory is illegal, because the government of this Middle Eastern country did not authorize the Turkish forces to enter its territory. That means we're going to work through them.

"As to Afrin, we call upon Turkey to show restraint in its operation and to minimize casualties to civilians and to actions that would escalate tensions in that area", Tillerson said.

The agreement underscores the increasingly complex situation in northern Syria where Kurdish groups, the Syrian government, rebel groups, Turkey, the United States and Russian Federation are tangled in a complex web of enmities and alliances.

In May 2017, Macron said he had set a "red line" at the use of chemical weapons.

The Turkish offensive against the YPG in Syria has so far been limited to Afrin, a border region where the United States is not believed to have troops on the ground.

Cavusoglu expressed Turkish anger that a cleric they suspect of being behind a 2016 attempted coup is living in Pennsylvania.


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