Leader of Syrian Kurdish group says Turkey’s operation in Syria justified

(Updates with comments, paragraph 7)

President of the Independent Syrian Kurds Association Abdulaziz Tammo on Thursday said Turkey has the right to border security and its military incursion into Syria was based on justified grounds, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

Turkey’s right to protect its borders extends to both ISIS and the majority-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), Tammo said during his speech at a panel organised by the U.S.-based Turkish Heritage Organisation.

On Oct. 9, Turkey launched a military operation into northeastern Syria controlled by the YPG, which Turkey considers to be affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an outlawed organisation that has fought for Kurdish self-rule within Turkey for three decades. 

The operation was ended after Turkey struck separate deals with the U.S. and Russia to remove the YPG from a 30 km deep strip of land in Syria along the Turkish border to establish a safe zone.

According to UN data, at least 180,000 people -including 80,000 children- were displaced and some 250 civilians lost their lives during Turkey's operation.

Tammo said PKK militants from many countries were fighting in Syria, and that the YPG posed the same threat to Syrian Kurds as ISIS.

Aliza Marcus, an expert on Turkey and Kurd and the author of the book Blood and Belief, noted in a tweet that Tammo "pretty much stands alone in his view."

The YPG has been the main fighting force of the international coalition against ISIS, led by the United States and backed by European countries.

Northeastern Syria should be cleared of terrorist organisations so Syrian refugees could be settled in the area, Tammo said. 

Turkey has plans to resettle up to two million Syrian refugees in the safe zone to be established, with Turkish companies taking on infrastructure efforts.