Kurdish official calls on US to stop Turkish offensive

Qamishli (Syria) (AFP) –


A senior Kurdish official on Saturday urged the United States to stop Turkey launching an offensive against Kurdish areas in northern Syria, after Washington announced the withdrawal of American troops.

Washington has for years supported the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria, as part of an international anti-jihadist coalition.

But in a shock announcement on Wednesday, US President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of around 2,000 soldiers from Syria.

Aldar Khalil, who played a key role in establishing Syria's semi-autonomous Kurdish region in 2013, said the US and its partners "must honour their commitments" while operating in the country.

"And even if they leave, they can at least work towards an international resolution," he told AFP.

"It's their duty to prevent any attack and to put an end to Turkish threats."

Turkey accuses the YPG of being an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long insurgency against Ankara.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to drive both the YPG and IS from Syria, but delayed a planned offensive following Trump's announcement.

The US decision to withdraw prompted top political leaders from the Syrian Kurdish forces to travel to Paris on Friday with the aim of drumming up support from the French government.

Endorsing the diplomatic push, Khalil called on France to "play a positive role at the United Nations and the Security Council, in order to (table) a resolution preventing a Turkish offensive."

But he admitted the diplomatic efforts have "still not borne fruit".

The Kurdish community accounts for 15 percent of Syria's population and controls around 30 percent of the country, as a federal region declared in 2016.

The same year Turkey conducted an operation against IS, which also aimed to block the YPG from joining up the territory it held in northern Syria, and staged an offensive against the militia in its northwestern enclave of Afrin in January this year.