MIDDLE EAST

US protection for YPG in southern Syria's al-Tanf region raises concerns

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Washington's support for PKK-affiliated groups in northern Syria and its protection of various factions in the southern al-Tanf region are threatening the war-torn country's territorial integrity, a Russian official said on Thursday.

"The situation in northeastern Syria where the Americans are still trying to dally with separatist-minded Kurdish groups continues to cause concern. The same is going on in southern Syria, the At-Tanf region, where United States forces openly occupy the territory of the sovereign Syrian state," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters in a press conference in Moscow.

She added, "The militants who have found shelter in the 55-kilometer exclusive zone arbitrarily established here by the Americans are demanding that civilians who want to leave must pay an exit fee of $2,000 per person."

Located on Syrian territory near the border with Jordan, the military base in al-Tanf was established by the U.S. in early 2016 to train opposition forces fighting against the Bashar al-Assad regime.

Experts, on the other hand, underscore that the Manbij deal between Turkey and Washington that foresees the withdrawal of YPG forces from the city may result in the relocation of PKK terrorists from northern Syria to the southern part of the country where the U.S. al-Tanf base is located.

Murat Aslan, a faculty member at Hasan Kalyoncu University, recently told Daily Sabah that the U.S. might plan to create a "safe zone" for itself and Israel around the Jordanian border by relocating the PKK in the base near the Jordanian border. "When the PKK under the guise of the SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces] meets the Jordanian border, Iran's crescent-like area of influence will be broken," he added.

U.S. support for the YPG terrorist organization, which facilitated efforts to form an autonomous region, has been a major sticking point in U.S.-Turkey relations. The U.S. had provided military training and given truckloads of military support to the YPG, despite Ankara's security concerns. In relation to the issue, Can Acun, a Middle East expert, previously told Daily Sabah: "The war against Daesh is substantially completed; yet, the U.S.' arms support for the YPG continues. The group has been attempting to form a so-called governing structure by designating some officials. This refers to longstanding investments and efforts in the region showing that the U.S. aims to establish its influence in the region and has long-term plans."

Turkey to focus on threats in eastern Euphrates: Erdoğan In the wake of the YPG threat near its border, Turkey carried out two cross-border military campaigns in the past two years. Yet, the terrorist group still continues to be a threat to Turkey.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been signaling a readiness to expand Turkey's military campaign into the much larger YPG territory east of the Euphrates. "Instead of stalling in Manbij, we are determined to focus our attention and energy east of the Euphrates," Erdoğan said yesterday in a speech addressed to his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) provincial heads in Ankara.

Pointing

out that Turkey's only interest is to eliminate the security threat permanently, Erdoğan indicated that new terrorist formations in areas previously liberated are unacceptable and a "red line" for Turkey.

Meanwhile, a senior official of the YPG, Gelo Isa, told the Russian Sputnik news agency on Wednesday that they do not want to form an independent state but seek to establish an "autonomous self-government," pointing out that they are exerting efforts in line with the process sparked by July 19, 2012. The power vacuum sparked by the Syrian Civil War gave the YPG

an opportunity to practically apply its form of governance and form communes as dictated by its Marxist-Leninist ideology. Subsequently, on July 19, 2012, the group began their efforts to gain autonomy, which materialized later in 2014 with the declaration of the so-called Constitution of Rojava, Charter of the Social Contract.

According to this con

tract, a new form of non-state governance called "democratic confederalism" that was based on bottom-up confederation across sectors of society through linked people's assemblies will be established.

Accordingly, the group declared Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (Rojava), the so-called de facto autonomous region of the YPG in Syria in 2012. Recently, the YPG tightened its grip on these areas by establishing nine committees that are similar to ministries.

Moreover, the YPG earlier last month formed a political entity called the General Council of Self-Administration in Northern and Eastern Syria, hinting at their autonomous plans. Although the group does not regard their plans as "founding a state" for ideological reasons, their efforts, which include steps to print their own currency, have been signaling the contrary.

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