YPG issued no ultimatum to US over Afrin, senior US commander says

RAGIP SOYLU @ragipsoylu
WASHINGTON
Published
General Votel and USAID administrator Green take a tour of Raqqa and inspect the ruins in the city. (DHA Photo)
General Votel and USAID administrator Green take a tour of Raqqa and inspect the ruins in the city. (DHA Photo)

A top commander in the U.S. military declared on Monday in Syria's Raqqa that the U.S. military was very committed to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is led by the Peoples' Protection Units (YPG), and said there was no ultimatum suggesting that the SDF would stop fighting Daesh because of its anger against Turkey's Afrin operation.

General Joseph Votel, the commander of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), visited Raqqa along with USAID Administrator Mark Green for the first time, and inspected the ruins in the city in a trip to assess the situation better for a post-Daesh stabilization campaign.

Votel was vocal about his concerns about Operation Olive Branch, launched by the Turkish military over the weekend to clear Syria's northwest corner and Afrin from the YPG - the Syrian military wing of the U.S.-designated terror group the PKK.

"The principal concern here is that this is going to draw our attention away from what is, as of yet, not yet a finished operation, a finished fight against ISIS. We've still got work to do here, and so we're very, very concerned that this could draw the attention away from that," Votel said, using another acronym for Daesh, according to the transcript of the press briefing provided by the USAID.

Votel later clarified that the YPG-led SDF actually hadn't issued any ultimatum in that regard: "No, I didn't hear anybody issue any kind of ultimatums. (...) What we advise and what we caution is restraint and patience on all sides here, to allow diplomacy to work here to try to resolve this."

The U.S. didn't oppose Turkey's Afrin operation forcefully, and international media interpreted this as partial abandonment of what the U.S. calls the "Syrian Kurds."

Votel also responded to this criticism by reiterating the U.S.' commitment to the SDF. He said the U.S. military and the coalition were still in Syria and had been there for a long time, right beside YPG militants in the fight against Daesh.

"That's our common fight, and, you know, that is something we're committed to seeing through to completion. And that includes the things we've talked about here: the stabilization and hopefully creating the conditions where, you know, a peace process under the auspices of the United Nations and Geneva can take place. So, we remain, we remain very, very committed to them," he said.

Some reporters, such as Turkish news wire Anadolu Agency's Pentagon Correspondent Kasım Ileri perceived this statement as something that could breed more trouble for the already damaged Turkish-American relations.

"General Votel offers commitment to the YPG/PKK in Raqqa to include them in the Geneva process. Those comments come as the U.S. is trying to bring Turkey to the table to discuss Ankara's security concerns regarding the YPG/PKK. Another crisis with Turkey led by Votel seems to be underway," he said.

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