SDF leader says ready for talks with Turkey if they leave Afrin

We are ready for talks with Turkey if they agree to leave Afrin and end its threats on Syria’s northeast, a commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on Monday.

General Mazlum Kobane, the Commander-in-Chief of the SDF, made the comments during a speech at a ceremony near Kobani to celebrate the end of the so-called Islamic State’s military defeat.

Turkey occupied Afrin following a three-month-long military campaign, which began in January 2018 and ended in March.

General Kobane said the civil and military administration of northeast Syria “is ready to open negotiations with Turkey” only if they withdraw from the former Kurdish-held enclave.

“The second condition is that Turkey ends its threats against northeastern Syria,” he added, according to a report published by the local Hawar News Agency (ANHA). “This will allow the national forces in Syria to find peace in the next phase after the defeat of ISIS.”

However, Kobane underlined that the SDF has the legitimate right to defend itself if attacked by other forces, especially Turkey which has repeatedly threatened to launch an attack against the Syrian Kurds in the east of the Euphrates.

Some analysts believe making peace with adversaries is the best route the Syrian Kurds can take to ensure their long-term interests are protected. Nicholas A. Heras, a Fellow at the Center for a New American Security, told Kurdistan 24 the SDF “ has to be pragmatic” in dealing with its allies, the United States, and those that threaten it, like Turkey.

The SDF “cannot afford to have Turkey continue to be a predatory actor seeking to run [them] down,” Heras noted. “It also cannot afford to upset the US team that is trying to make Turkey happy.”

“The SDF needs to show the US team that it can be a serious partner for peace and stability in Syria, even if that means playing nice with Turkey.”

Senior leaders from the self-administration in Syria’s northeast, as well as former French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner, and officials from the US-led coalition attended the three-hour-long ceremony in Kobani.

In another part of his speech, General Kobane reserved praise for the Kurdistan Region’s Peshmerga forces “who stood next to their brothers in the fight against terrorism.”

In 2014, at the height of the Islamic State’s insurgency, Peshmerga from the Kurdistan Region fought alongside Syrian Kurdish forces to hand the extremist group one of its first significant defeats.

Kobane also highlighted the role of the US-led coalition as well as international volunteers who joined the SDF and People’s Protection Units (YPG) to fight the Islamic State.

“All this cooperation lead to the defeat of ISIS.”

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