Turkey Says 71 Kurdish Fighters Killed Last Week
The Turkish military said on Friday that 71 Kurdish fighters were killed in Syria last week, Reuters reported.
Turkey and the Kurdish YPG militia are allies of the United States in the fight against the so-called Islamic State. But Ankara’s operation against ISIS, launched in August 2016, also targets the YPG, which it views as a threat.
Turkey has been fighting its own Kurdish insurgency since the 1980s, and it views Syrian Kurdish forces as an extension of Turkey’s Kurdish PKK party.
The U.S. is preparing to partner with local forces, including the YPG, to build up its operations against ISIS in the militants’ de facto capital, Raqqa – much to Turkey’s alarm. The U.S. says it it trying to avoid conflict between Turkish troops and the YPG. But the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have already reached an agreement with Syrian government troops in eastern Aleppo province, handing them control of several villages to create a buffer zone between Kurdish forces and Ankara’s troops and the rebels it supports.
The U.S.-backed SDF, Russian-supported government forces and Ankara-backed rebels are all fighting ISIS and each other in northern Syria.
More Talks Scheduled for Geneva, U.N. Says
The United Nations’ special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said that government and opposition delegations will meet for more “proximity talks,” the TASS news agency reported.
“My current intention is to bring the invitees back to Geneva for the fifth round with the intended date of March 23,” de Mistura said. The fourth round of U.N.-sponsored talks ended last week with little progress. They came nearly a year since the previous round of U.N.-sponsored talks, and in the lull Russia had sponsored its own negotiations in Astana, Kazakhstan, where consultations on the six-year conflict will be held again next week.
“By the way, in Astana it’s exactly the same. Getting into direct talks may take place at the right moment, but it’s much more productive when we do it through proximity talks, because that is where a mediator can do its job better, and also facilitate the technical aspect of it, because there is a lot of that,” he added.
Government Bombardment Continues, Rebels Return Fire
The Syrian government on Friday continued its bombardment of rebel-held areas with which it has a truce, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Surface-to-surface missiles as well as artillery shells targeted the Qaboun and Tishreen neighborhoods on the outskirts of Damascus, where a three-year-truce had held strong until last week, the United Kingdom-based monitor said.
Government forces also attacked areas in the Yarmouk refugee camp south of the capital, held by an array of Islamist forces, including ISIS.
Rebels and Islamist factions shelled government forces in clashes on the eastern outskirts of the city.
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