Mazloum Abdi: Entire border must be protected
The Commander-in-Chief of the Syrian Democratic Forces SDF, Mazloum Abdi, has explained that the meetings between north and east of Syria and the Turkish state is still continuing in order to solve the problems, and said in this regard about the buffer zone: "the implementation of the agreement starts from the area between Serêkaniyê, Tel-Abyed and will extend to the areas Kobani, Qamishlo and Derik.
In an interview with (ANHA), Abdi talked about the details of the recent meetings on the "buffer zone", its depth and areas that will include, its impact on the Syrian situation and negotiations with the Syrian regime.
Now everyone is discussing the "safe zone" or "buffer zone." At the outset, I would like to ask this question: What do you call this area which is being discussed in the talks? Where is the difference in terms of naming?
In fact, the basic theme is border protection. There is a problem of border security between northern and eastern Syria and the Turkish state. Officially called "buffer zone", we can call it "buffer zone". But its essence is border security.
three-day meeting between the United States and a Turkish delegation. Are you SDF? Did you present your views to the meeting? Were your views expressed at the meeting?
In fact, it is a long stage and not new. When the US decision was withdrawn earlier this year, you know, Turkey began threatening northern and eastern Syria. This topic surfaced like this. At that time, we asked to form the region. Because we were sure that we did not pose any threat to the Turkish state. There is no reason for a Turkish attack on northeastern Syria. At the time, we asked our American partners to mediate between us and the Turkish state to resolve the issue through dialogue, not war. This subject continues to date and has passed several stages.
There have been meetings on more than one occasion and Turkish threats have been issued. Recently, Turkey has massed troops on the border and the likelihood of an attack has increased.
This is a fact, the greater the likelihood of war, the greater the likelihood of mediation and agreement. In this context, with our knowledge, a meeting took place during this period.
Have your views been discussed at the meeting held in Ankara between America and Turkey?
Right. When the issue of the so-called “safe” area emerged, the SDF put forward its project. What is our perception of the “buffer zone”? We put this project to our American partners. The Turkish state has opinions, and it has also presented its views to the United States of America. Since the beginning of the year, meetings have been held under the two visions. But the Turkish state insists on its views and I think it is still. We are confident that our project is more objective and reasonable and ensures the security of both parties. We are confident that our project will be implemented and will succeed.
A lot of news has been published in the media regarding the meetings in Ankara. Many people published the decisions that came out of the meeting. But so far no official and concerned person has spoken about these decisions. What is the area of that area, who will be in the area, and whether airspace will be closed or not? In fact, what decisions were taken in these meetings, can you review those decisions?
The most important topic is the continuation of the stage. The problem is that we do not consider it a problem because the Turkish state always threatens to attack. But as SDF does not want the problem to end with war or to develop with war. We have no interest in war, so from day one until now, our endeavors have been to try to solve the problem through dialogue. Importantly, the recent meetings have shown that the meetings have not reached a dead end, and we are present in those meetings indirectly.
The Americans play the role of mediator between us and the Turkish state. They offer us the views of the Turkish state and tell Turkey what we accept or reject. At the same time, they present our visions to the Turkish state and tell us what Turkey has accepted or rejected. And it continues like this. In recent meetings there have been guarantees that the meetings will continue.
We see this as positive. The outline was agreed, there are no details yet. The three fundamental issues that have emerged in the media are fundamental and we agree with what has emerged. We are confident that the framework of the agreement is appropriate for a solution. But there are still many details.
In recent meetings, a "buffer zone" was agreed between Serêkaniyê and Tel Abyad. Some say the area is 5 km deep and others say 14 km. Is there something clear about this?
I can tell you what we have accepted as the SDF. The things that we accepted were mainly in our project. It includes the area from the Tigris to the Euphrates along the border. We did not accept to include only a specific area. If there is an agreement, it should cover all areas of northeast Syria. The entire area is 5 km deep, but in some areas between Serêkaniyê and Tel- Abyad, the area is 9 km deep and in very small areas the depth increases to 14 km between Serêkaniyê and Tel- Abyad. In general, the depth of the area is 5 km but in specific small places ranging from 9 to 14 km. So, say 5-9-14 km.
Can we say that what has been circulated to the media about the decision to establish a "buffer zone" between Serêkaniyê and Tel Abyad is not accurate?
No, there is no such decision. The agreement is intended to start from the area between Serêkaniyê and Tel- Abyad and then extend to the Kobani, Qamishlo and Deirk areas.
Q: Why do you want to establish the area along the border? Why is Turkey insisting that the area between Serêkaniyê and Tel Abyad?
If there is an agreement, it must be a comprehensive agreement. This agreement is not for a specific region but for all regions, northern and eastern Syria is one region and there is no difference between its sections. It is true that the area between Serêkaniyê and Tel-Abyed is home to an Arab majority, but it is part of Syria. If there is agreement on a specific area, we cannot accept it and there is no such thing.
At the moment, what is being said is not true. The agreement will be implemented in stages. The agreement is intended to be implemented from that region, and basically the agreement cannot be applied everywhere. It is not where the implementation will begin because the agreement will be implemented consecutively.
What forces will be in the area to be established? Which force will be responsible for coordination?
The project we have proposed is that our (YPG, YPG) withdraw 5 kilometers into the border. Local forces should be stationed in their place and be residents of those areas. These forces will work with Coalition Forces in that area. In each region there are military councils. There will be no cities within that area.
In the agreed area, there is talk of a Turkish demand to use airspace. Was this approved during the meetings?
No, we were asked something as well but we did not and will not accept. If reconnaissance flights hover over the "buffer zone", other areas will be at risk. We did not consider it necessary, and we consider it a threat to our military forces.
After the meeting, Turkish officials said they would bring Syrian refugees to the region. Is there a certain agreement in this regard, what is your position on this?
Above all, what is said to be a peace corridor, this name belongs to the Turkish State This is not an official designation. This region is already peaceful and not a place of terrorism, the Turkish state says. We can say that our regions are the safest and most stable areas in Syria. Previously, we issued a statement in which we appealed to the people of the area to return to their homes. Residents of north-eastern Syria in Turkey can return. We are not against their return. This is part of the agreement and we have accepted it. But we have a prerequisite. People who are in the ranks of Jabhat al-Nusra, ISIS and terrorist gangs who have put pressure on the people and who are wanted for justice can return, but they must be tried. After settling their legal status, they can continue their lives.
If you reach an agreement with the Turkish state in the border area, how will this affect the Syrian crisis?
It will have a big impact. So we want an agreement with the Turkish state. Turkish intervention in Syria is the basis of many problems and hinders the solution of many problems.
So the steps we will take and if we develop here in the form of an agreement then we will find their way to a solution. For example, there are many forces and personalities that exploit the threats and attacks of the Turkish state and invoke them and will not go towards a solution. If a solution is found, these pretexts will also go away.
The forces you are talking about are you, can you refer to them?
For example, the Syrian regime's approach is this way. Our strategy is to build on a Syrian-Syrian solution. For a long time, meetings have been going on with the Syrian regime. So far, the Syrian regime has not taken concrete steps toward a solution. The good thing is that we and the Syrian regime are not at war, we have meetings and will continue.
Are your meetings still ongoing?
True, from the beginning until now there are meetings and will continue. But the Syrian regime is confident that there are factors that will weaken the region. Among these factors are the attacks of the Turkish state and the regime calculates those attacks. The regime believes that the Turkish state will attack and we will meet with the regime from a position of weakness. The meetings will be to take measures to confront the Turkish state and give up the gains of the revolution.
Some areas where the majority of the Arab component live, such as al-Tabqa, al-Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor and Manbij, which we liberated with the people of that region, we have a duty to protect them. The blood of the peoples of the region has been mixed and we must move towards a solution. But the regime believes that under threats it can enter the area unresolved. If there is an agreement and the danger of the Turkish state is removed, then the regime should look at some facts very closely then we can move towards a solution based on the unity of Syria.
After the Ankara meeting, the Syrian regime stated that we will not accept the agreement. Did the regime do what you hoped?
I am confident that the Syrian regime is extrapolating the stage wrongly and evaluating its results incorrectly. The regime believes that if there is an agreement and the danger of the Turkish state goes away, we will be in a stronger position, so the chances of the regime returning to the region will diminish. That's wrong thinking and we don't think that way. Quite the contrary, if there is an agreement that would be a reason to protect part of Syrian territory, it would be great for all of Syria.
So, the system is extrapolating the stage incorrectly. If our position in northern and eastern Syria is strong, then Syria's position will be strong. The chances for a comprehensive Syrian solution will increase. The regime should deal positively with any agreement with neighboring countries that prevents the occupation of Syria. No final agreement reached. If the position of the people of northern and eastern Syria is not strong on the military, political and diplomatic levels, then we cannot stand up to the occupation. Therefore, this strengthens the position of the Syrian regime and has to deal positively with these issues.
A: You said that the meetings are continuing. If the meetings achieve a positive result, how will such an outcome affect Jarablus, Azaz, al-Bab and most importantly Afrin?
If progress occurs in northern and eastern Syria, and the road to occupation is closed, the occupation in Afrin, al-Bab, Jarablus and Azaz will be weakened. The chances of the occupation ending from these areas will increase. Therefore, we still have doubts that the Turkish state and to protect its presence in Afrin and that region will not accept the agreement quickly.
The threat is not a force, showing the weakness of the Turkish state. There are internal problems in Turkey. The Turkish state always wants to export its problems and direct public opinion abroad. We believe that Turkey will continue and escalate its threats. This is the characteristic of the Turkish State; this is not strange for us.
The important issue, in previous statements by SDF and the Autonomous Administration, you mentioned that any Turkish attack would weaken the struggle against IS and give IS the opportunity to regain its power. If the agreement is implemented, how will it affect the war against ISIS?
A very important question and the answer is also important. Many are curious to know why America and the International Coalition are involved. For the sake of his own interests, the Turkish state is pressured to stop its attacks. The existence of ISIS is tied to this.
The presence of ISIS does not only adversely affect us. For our part, we have defeated ISIS militarily, and now we are fighting a struggle to prevent IS from re-emerging.
At present, there is a risk that ISIS will cause greater harm to the entire world, especially that ISIS is seeking to carry out retaliatory attacks in Europe and America.
It is true that ISIS has been defeated militarily, but it continues to be organized and through disguised cells, thus posing a greater risk. Previously IS was fighting in a certain area now spreading everywhere, sleeper cells are scattered around the world. People are wary of ISIS more than before. There is a danger that IS will regain control of some areas. Currently in the west of the Euphrates, in areas under the authority of Syria are all under ISIS. The Syrian regime is unable to enter these areas. In Iraq there are many areas ISIS exists there, where Iraqi army cannot enter it, and ISIS had revived its power again.
In our areas, especially in eastern Syria, ISIS is trying to control some areas, increase its attacks and stand up to our project. any possible Turkish attack on our areas will enhance the chances of ISIS to strengthen itself in those areas. There are about 12,000 ISIS in our grip. Thousands of our tough fighters guard these mercenaries. If a battle occurs, these fighters will be forced to protect their cities.
I don't know how long we can protect IS inside prisons. IS families being very dangerous. ISIS will be the biggest beneficiary of the Turkish attack. This will adversely affect all world powers. Therefore, many countries want us more to stop the attack. If America is willing today to broker an agreement between us and the Turkish state, that is one reason. Because in the event of war, the United States will be affected, too. In order to prevent the resurgence of the threat of ISIS, we show a softer development of the meetings.
In order to strengthen our common struggle with the coalition against ISIS, our borders in northeastern Syria must be stable. Our troops should not have to dig trenches because they must continue their struggle.
- Finally, in the context of what you have said, the stage is continuing, can we say that the results of the meetings with the Turkish state, some negative and some positive?
We are military and look at things from a military perspective. There are still Turkish soldiers and tanks on our border. Turkish threats continue, so the threat of war remains. What is positive, however, is that the meetings continue and do not reach a dead end. In general, there is an agreement. But no agreement was reached in many details.
In the coming days, there will be indirect meetings between us and the Turkish state. Turkey is likely to insist on some visions and we can reject them. We do not know where these meetings will go, whether they will reach a dead end or they will culminate in a comprehensive agreement.
Therefore, we must continue our struggle. Our people, who resist occupation and attacks in human shields and marches, have to step up their struggle. Because the whole world will know that the people of northern and eastern Syria stand against attacks and occupation. The activities of our people will resonate and have a positive impact at this stage. For sake SDF these events will be a great support and will strengthen our arm in the meetings.
As military forces we will increase our measures until a comprehensive agreement is reached. We will always be ready to counter any possible attack.