A commander for the Kurdish-led forces has told Sky News that it is in the best interests of the UK and other European countries to pressure Turkey not to attack northern Syria.
Speaking from a base in northern Syria, near the Turkish border where troops are massing, Kino Gabriel said Turkey’s plan risked a major war, a humanitarian crisis and the security of Islamic State prisoners.
The regional commander and spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said: “I think our message is mainly two points. One of them is not to trust the Turkish government with all its claims.
“We are watching and I think the whole world is watching the current state of democracy in Turkey and we won’t expect something different inside Syria.”
Mr Gabriel confirmed to Sky News his forces would repel a Turkish attack with full force and claimed that locals would use themselves as human shields.
Turkey deploys tank convoy to Syrian border
He said: “The people are already working and moving towards the border area in order to create a human shield against any Turkish invasion and I think everyone is also working to prepare itself for any future operation.
“I think our advice would be for the people to take care of themselves and their families and trust the Syrian Democratic Forces to defend them and to protect them.”
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The Turkish government is preparing for an imminent invasion of a strip of land in northern Syria which it is framing as humanitarian.
Turkey claims the incursion would create a safe zone to which Syrian refugees can be returned.
Image: The proposed ‘safe zone’ between Turkey and Syria would become a crisis zone, Kino Gabriel said
But the Kurdish regional commander dismissed this.
He said: “It’s not a safe zone, even if they say so.
“Eventually it would be a crisis zone and it would be an area that would see a major war, a major battle and I think we are going to face a humanitarian crisis which would lead to hundreds of thousands of people to leave their homes and their places, and for sure that is not a definition for a safe zone.
“I think the Turkish government is far from thinking in the best interests of the Syrian people mainly and I think they are working for their own agenda, for their own interests that are far from what the Syrian people want and what the different groups living in the area here want.”
Turkey views the Kurdish military in northern Syria as a terrorist organisation despite the Kurds being an instrumental part of the US-UK-led coalition to destroy the Islamic State terror group.
A Turkish incursion into the Kurdish area of northern Syria could achieve a longstanding ambition to destroy the Kurdish fighters which it sees as a terrorist threat to its integrity.
At the weekend, Donald Trump, ordered the pullback of American troops from the area which Turkey is preparing to invade.
In doing so, the US president is effectively standing aside to allow one ally, Turkey, to attack another, the Kurds.
Although, in a series of tweets he has since warned Turkey against “unnecessary fighting”.
With a direct message to the British government, the Kurdish commander said: “I think the British government, the British people, should not abandon northeast Syria and should not abandon the people who have already been working together for several years.
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“The British people have had its share of the sacrifices that hold the international community who is participating in the international coalition [against IS].
“Alone, the SDF, all of them, have given huge sacrifices in order to defeat IS and with all the work that we have done together it would be, I think, a shame for the whole world to lose all of those sacrifices and all of those efforts just to give Turkey its opportunity to attack this area and to invade this area.
“And I think the international community should make a stand against Turkey and against its claims and in support of democracy and the support of peace in northeastern Syria.”
Image: The US move came after a call between Donald Trump and Recep Tayyip Erdogan
The Kurdish forces are in charge of 70,000 IS prisoners and their families being held in camps near the area Turkey is preparing to invade.
Mr Gabriel said Kurdish forces would continue to secure the prisoners but that a battle with Turkey would stretch their resources.
“Eventually there is a possibility the war or the battle with Turkey is going to need more personnel and more fighters from our side,” he said.
“I think there is this risk of minimising the military personnel who are responsible for the security of those facilities and use them in the battlefield, so everything is related and we are going to see how everything is going to work and we are going to work according to it.”
Image: Turkish army soldiers driving towards the Syrian border
Overnight, a close adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the military operation would begin “shortly” and that it, not the Kurds, were the best force to defeat IS.
“The Turkish military, together with the Free Syrian Army, will cross the Turkish-Syrian border shortly,” Fahrettin Altun said on Twitter.
“Turkey’s intention is clear: to dismantle the terrorist corridor on our border. To fight against PKK (Kurdish separatists), which is the enemy of Kurdish people. To combat Daesh (IS) and prevent its resurgence.”
Source : Sky News