PARIS (AFP) – A Syrian Kurd leader in France on Tuesday accused Turkey of “massively attacking” Kurdish forces trying to recapture Raqqa, the Islamic State group stronghold in Syria.
“With its artillery and aircraft, the Turkish army is taking advantage of the media and international community’s focus on Mosul to massively attack Syrian Kurds to stop them taking Raqqa,” Khalen Issa told a news conference in Paris.
Iraq announced the launch of the operation to retake Mosul from IS on October 17, and has since been advancing towards the city from the south, east and north.
Issa, the representative of Syrian Kurds in France, said that in their preparations to retake Raqqa, the US-backed Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) “have liberated several villages occupied by Daesh (an alternative name for IS) to the northeast of Aleppo.”
“If Turkish artillery and aircraft are heavily bombing SDF positions in this zone and in the Afrine district it is partly to stop them (SDF) cutting Daesh supply lines to Raqqa and partly to allow Turkey to keep control of 70 kilometres (43 miles) of its border with Syria,” he said.
“We cannot go and fight in Raqqa when the Turkish army is bombing us… Conditions are not in place to take Raqqa,” he said.
Accusing the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of “rushing to Daesh’s rescue,” Issa called on France and other permanent members of the UN Security Council “to put an end to Erdogan’s irresponsible actions which hamper the fight against Daesh.”
On Saturday, the Turkish military said it had hit Kurdish militia targets in northern Syria for the second time in less than 72 hours.
Turkey is keen to prevent the creation of an autonomous Kurdish “canton” in northern Syria because of the presence there of Kurdish groups — the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Kurdish Democratic Union (PYD) – which it deems terrorist organisations with links to Turkey’s banned insurgent Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Ankara has also accused the YPG and PYD of attacking Syrian opposition forces which are fighting IS.
Issa said the Turkish military had again attacked SDF positions on Monday night.