A Turkish minister has said that his country does “not accept” US claims that its military has reached a ceasefire deal with Kurdish militias in northern Syria.
Syrian rebels backed by Turkish army entered Jarablus, one of Islamic State’s last strongholds on the Turkish-Syrian border, on August 24, in Turkey’s first major U.S.-backed incursion into Syria.
The operation which is named “Euphrates Shield” aims at stopping the Kurdish YPG from seizing more territory along the border and filling the void left by ISIS and eliminating the terrorist group itself.
The statement came after US officials said that Turkish-backed Syrian rebels and Kurdish forces had agreed on a temporary pause in fighting in northern Syria.
“We do not accept in any circumstances … a ‘compromise or a ceasefire reached between Turkey and Kurdish elements’,” Omer Celik, EU affairs minister, told the state-run Anadolu news agency in a live interview on Wednesday.
“The Turkish republic is a sovereign, legitimate state.”
Is there a ceasefire?
The truce is between the Jarablus Military Council and Turkey, said Sharfan Darwish, spokesman for the Manbij Military Council.
Both councils are allied with the Syrian Democratic Forces, a U.S.-backed alliance that consists primarily of the YPG Kurdish militias.
A subsequent statement from the Jarablus Military Council announced a temporary ceasefire “under the oversight of the international coalition led by the United States” in order to spare the people of Jarablus “the scourge of war”.
The statement added that those who had overseen the ceasefire were attempting to turn it into a permanent one.
However, in an interview with Ronahi TV, Ali Hajjo, a spokesman for the council, acknowledged the ceasefire but also pledged to regain areas taken by Turkey and its allies.
“We will not stand with our hands tied. We will liberate our areas and land from the Ottoman Turkish occupation and its factions,” he said.
However, a commander in one of the Turkish-backed Syrian rebel groups that have clashed with SDF-allied groups south of Jarablus said there was no ceasefire, only a pause in the military operation.
“There is no truce and no ceasefire. But there has been a pause for some time,” he said, adding that the operation would resume shortly.
US officials had claimed on Tuesday they received assurance that all parties involved were going to stop shooting at each other and focus on the ISIS threat.
“It is a loose agreement for at least the next couple of days and we are hoping that will solidify,” Colonel John Thomas, spokesman for the US Central Command, was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.
Thomas said Turkey and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), made up largely of Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG), had opened communications with the US and between each other “with the goal of limiting hostilities”.
Thomas called the reported agreement between the two groups “encouraging”.
The White House also praised the apparent halt in fighting between anti-ISIS forces in Syria.
“The US welcomes the overnight calm between the Turkish military and other counter-ISIS forces in Syria,” Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman, said on Tuesday.
“It continues to encourage these moves as a way to prevent further hostilities and loss of life between all counter-ISIS forces operating in the area.”