Exclusive: Kurdish YPG militia says Turkey ‘declaring war’ in northwest Syria


QAMISHLI, Syria/BEIRUT The head of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia told Reuters on Wednesday that Turkish military deployments near Kurdish-held areas of northwestern Syria amounted to a “a declaration of war”, signaling the risk of a major confrontation.

Asked whether he expected a conflict with Turkey in northern Syria, where the two sides have exchanged artillery fire in recent days, Sipan Hemo accused Turkey of preparing for a military campaign.

“These (Turkish) preparations have reached level of a declaration of war and could lead to the outbreak of actual clashes in the coming days.” he said. “We will not stand idly by against this potential aggression.”

The YPG is spearheading the U.S.-backed campaign to capture Islamic State’s stronghold of Raqqa, some 200 km (125 miles) to east of the Aleppo region where tensions between Turkish forces and the Kurdish YPG have been mounting in recent weeks.

Turkish forces deployed in northern Syria last year in support of Ankara-backed Free Syrian Army rebel groups in an operation that drove Islamic State away from the border and at the same time drove a wedge between YPG-held areas.

In recent weeks, Turkey has sent reinforcements into the area north of Aleppo. It says the YPG represents a security threat to Turkey, seeing it as an extension of the PKK, which has been fighting an insurgency against the Turkish state for decades. The YPG and PKK deny they are linked.

(Reporting by Rodi Said and Tom Perry; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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