In an October meeting with Deputy Special Envoy for the Coalition Defeat ISIS (D/SE) Roebuck, SDF Commander Mazloum said as of 1400 local, Turkish air strikes and artillery were ongoing across northeastern Syria, to include major population centers and SDF positions well beyond 30km of Turkey’s border. He said ground forces had not yet incurred, but “sleeper cells” had seized two villages south of Ras al-Ain and he anticipated more ground forces would try to enter today. He said military campaign had progressed as he had expected it.
D/SE conveyed that senior U.S. officials were engaging at the highest levels with Turkey to broker a ceasefire and larger resolution to the Turkey-YPG conflict. He said Washington did not anticipate Turkey would extend its military campaign beyond 30km of its border and there would be an opportunity to resolve long-standing political differences between Turkey and the Syrian Kurds. Mazloum clarified SDF/YPG intentions to end the Turkish invasion of the northeast and participate in a political process for Syria.
Mazloum said his organization did not seek a “statelet”, they respected the territorial integrity of Syria, and they wanted their military forces to come under the Syrian state. “I do not want to keep my forces as they are now, they were created with the goal of defeating ISIS, but we want them to eventually come under Syrian state.” He said this is precisely why his people were so adamant in being a part of the UN-led political process and the Constitutional Committee. They were seeking an entry point via the existing political process and not autonomy to circumvent it. He said this conversation must take place at a national level with all Syrian parties.
Mazloum was very clear that his focus was on Syria. The PYD/YPG had no hostile intent towards Turkey. “All I want is for Turkey not to attack Syria. We want an agreement with them.” Adding, “we can address all of their concerns, we do not want autonomy, and we want to be part of the political process.”
Mazloum came back for clarification on the U.S. position regarding Turkey’s demand for a 30-km zone under its control: “Are you asking me to surrender 30km of my land and then discuss these points? Let me make sure I understand, the United States of America wants Turkey to occupy this land?” He said he needed an immediate ceasefire and then would discuss these issues. Mazloum said he wanted to be extremely clear, “We have no intent to disarm our forces during this confrontation with Turkey. I will not disarm so Turkey can come in to control us and make the Kurdish people slave to them, I will not agree to that.” He said he was more than willing to discuss Turkey’s national security interest in Turkey, but would not let them control this land.
Mazloum asked again, “Are you planning to let Turkey proceed 30km and take our towns and villages? We need to know if this is the intent.” Mazloum demanded an answer, “I need to know, because if you are not, I need to make a deal with Russia and the regime now and invite their planes to protect this region…You have given up on us. You are leaving us to be slaughtered. You have nothing for us. You are not willing to protect the people, but you do not want another force to come protect us. You have sold us. This is immoral.”
Mazloum continued, “You will not protect us and you won’t let anyone else protect us. Your presence has turned everyone else in Syria against us. We partnered with you in good faith and this is what we get in return? I need to know if you are going to stand with us. I have been holding myself back for two days from going to the press and saying America abandoned us and that I would like you to get out of our areas now so that I can invite Russian and regime planes to take over this air space. Either you stop this bombing on our people now, or move aside so we can let in the Russians.”
He concluded, “There are two forces in Syria that can stop this massacre. The United State and Russia. If you do not want to do this, then we will ask them. I am watching my sons, my brothers, and my families being killed. I have to go elsewhere.”
D/SE Roebuck said he understood Mazloum’s points and that Ambassador Jeffrey was working at the highest levels of the U.S. government to determine what could be done to stop the Turkish air strikes and broker a ceasefire. Roebuck asked Mazloum not to take any immediate decisions and allow him to convey Mazloum’s response to Ambassador Jeffrey so that he could follow up. He made clear that the points were meant as the initial opening of a discussion on conditions for a cease-fire that Ambassador Jeffrey would work with Turkish officials. Mazloum agreed to wait for the U.S. answer before taking any action.