Top Syrian Kurdish official says Kurds ready to fight Turkey

BEIRUT (AP) — A top Syrian Kurdish official said Tuesday his fighters are prepared to confront Turkish forces if they enter northeastern Syria, adding that it’s clear from Ankara’s latest statements that Turkey has a plan to invade the region.

Shahoz Hasan is co-chair of the largest Kurdish group in Syria, the Democratic Union Party, or PYD. He spoke to The Associated Press by telephone from Syria shortly after White House national security adviser John Bolton — who is trying to negotiate the safety of Kurdish allies in northeastern Syria — was apparently rebuffed by Turkey’s president.

“We are getting ready to confront Turkish threats through resistance,” he said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said there would be “no concession” in Ankara’s push against what he described as “terror groups” in the war-torn country and said Ankara’s preparations for a new military offensive against terror groups in Syria are “to a large extent” complete.

Hasan said he hoped the results of Bolton’s visit to Turkey will become clearer in the next few days. He said that Syria’s Kurds are in contact with the Russians and the Syrian government and could strike a deal such as the one reached last month when Syrian government troops entered an area close to the northern town of Manbij that Turkey had threatened to attack.

“Until now there has been no (Turkish) military intervention but if it happens I believe we will be ready to face it, in addition to political and diplomatic work with all sides,” Hasan said.

Turkey considers the main Syrian Kurdish militia, the Peoples Protection Units, or YPG, a terrorist group linked to the insurgency in Turkey. The PYD is the political wing of the YPG.

Meanwhile, deadly fighting for the last area under Islamic State group control in eastern Syria continued as the militants took advantage of bad weather to launch counterattacks.

U.S.-led coalition warplanes and artillery pounded Shaafa village in Deir el-Zour province near the Iraqi border Tuesday, activists and a war monitor said, as the U.S.-allied Kurdish-led force tried to advance on the ground. Nearly two dozen U.S.-backed fighters have been reportedly killed in fighting Monday.

The fighting in eastern Syria demonstrates the threat still posed by IS despite claims by President Donald Trump the group has been defeated. The claims were challenged by his national security advisers and led to the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis and the top U.S. official in the coalition against IS. Over the weekend, Bolton announced the U.S. pullout would not be as immediate as Trump had initially declared.

A statement released Monday by the office of French President Emmanuel Macron said that regarding the announced withdrawal of U.S. troops, Macron underlined during a telephone call with Trump the importance of tight coordination among members of the international coalition, “to ensure the security of all our partners.”

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