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08:03 PM | Mon, 05 Dec 2016

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Kurds Working With Assad and the Russians : Hammond

285 Days ago
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philip 24216

Britain has seen "disturbing evidence" that Kurdish forces are coordinating with the Syrian regime and the Russian air force, the Foreign Secretary has said.The Kurdish YPG, which has become the West's main ground force against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), has taken advantage of a regime offensive in north Syria to seize territory from US-backed rebels, effectively leaving Washington's proxies fighting each other."What we have seen over the last weeks is very disturbing evidence of co-ordination between Syrian Kurdish forces, the Syrian regime and the Russian air force which are making us distinctly uneasy about the Kurds' role in all of this," Philip Hammond told Parliament yesterday.Syria's Kurds have emerged as key power brokers, enjoying the support of both Washington and Moscow, even as the two powers square off on opposing sides of the conflict.Although Syria's government and rebel forces have tentatively agreed a temporary ceasefire to start on Saturday, the participation of the YPG remains in doubt. A YPG official, who refused to be named, said that the group was "seriously examining" the US and Russian-brokered plan.For now, the Kurdish militia is closing in on Azaz, a rebel-held city near the Turkish border that has become one of the biggest prizes in the battle for northern Syria. If it falls, tens of thousands of Syrians seeking refuge there could flee north to the closed frontier, exacerbating a humanitarian crisis that aid workers have described as the worst they have witnessed during five years of war. Throughout 2014 and 2015, US-led warplanes supported the YPG as it pushed Isil from a broad stretch along the Turkish border, consolidating territory it hopes could form a mini Kurdish state.But in recent months, the militia has turned towards Russia for air cover. The YPG's political wing, the PYD, was rewarded with a diplomatic mission in Moscow this month. Turkish politicians saw the move as a provocation and part of a wider bid to expand Russian regional influence.Six months into its intervention on Bashar al-Assad's behalf, Moscow is using bombing raids to weaken rebels fighting the Syrian regime. It is also baiting Turkey, which is furious at the possibility of a de facto Kurdish state along its border as it fights a militant Kurdish insurgency at home.Last week, Ankara finally lashed out, shelling YPG positions over several days in what it described as "self-defence". The deputy prime minister, Numan Kurtulmus, warned yesterday that Turkey would continue those attacks "if necessary".John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, warned that continued fighting could lead to the break-up of the country. "It may be too late to keep it as a whole Syria if we wait much longer," he said.Experts have voiced scepticism over the intended truce. Although the deal requires Moscow to halt its air campaign against groups respecting the ceasefire, that does not include Isil or Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda affiliate group.Mr Kerry said Washington was considering a "plan B" for Syria if Moscow and Damascus were not serious about negotiating a political transition, but would not elaborate on what that was. The battle for northern Syria was also moving fast. Isil said yesterday that it had cut a key supply route for government forces between the northern city of Aleppo and central and western Syria. The Aamaq news agency, which acts as its unofficial media wing, said Isil fighters were in "full control" of Khanaser, a town southeast of Aleppo.


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