01/14/2019, 21.23
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Syrian bishop: 'enormous tension' in the disputed area between Kurds and Turks

Msgr Hindo fears "new clashes" in the north-east of Syria after the announcement of the withdrawal of US troops. In the "volatile situation", the Kurds are ready to dialogue with Damascus. Trump warns: we will destroy Ankara economically in the event of an attack on the Kurds. Erdogan rejects the threat.


Hassaké (AsiaNews) - In the north-east of Syria, in the area controlled by the Kurds and over which the threat of an attack by Turkey looms after the disengagement of the United States, "a climate of enormous tension" pervades, says Msgr. Jacques Behnan Hindo, at the helm of the Syro-Catholic archieparchy of Hassakè-Nisibi.

The prelate does not exclude "new clashes" between the local and regional powers that contend the area. "We are afraid that there will be a new war and further attacks; the situation is extremely volatile", he warns.

Yesterday, US President Donald Trump threatened to "economically destroy" Turkey, if Ankara takes advantage of the withdrawal of the Americans - about 2 thousand troops - to "hit the Kurds". Analysts and experts consider the words of the White House tenant "the greatest threat" by a president to a NATO ally ". Last week, Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyp Erdogan had canceled a meeting with US national security adviser John Bolton traveling to the Middle East and said he was ready to attack the Kurds.

Trump defended the choice of the soldiers' withdrawal, welcomed with skepticism if not even opposed within the US military circles and which led to the resignation of the defense secretary Jim Mattis. "Russia, Iran and Syria - said the president - were the major beneficiaries of the long-term policy" of the United States in Syria with the aim of destroying the Islamic State (IS, ex Isis). He reiterated that these three countries are "natural enemies" and it is time to "bring troops back home" by bringing to a close an "endless war".

The Americans (who aim to create a 20-mile buffer zone in the area) fought the jihadist group in northern Syria with the help of Kurdish militias, providing them with air coverage. However, for Ankara the Kurdish protection units, the YPG are a terrorist group affiliated to the PKK, between them and ISIS "there is no difference" and the Turkish government "will continue to fight all of them".

Msgr Hindo, who in the past had criticized "the ambiguous" US policy in the region, explains that "the Kurds, which make up 10% of the total population of the area, have started negotiations with the Syrian government" for a return under the umbrella of Damascus. In recent days, he added, "I spoke with their leaders and I explained to them that they can not act as occupiers", but they must contribute to the path of reconciliation in the north-east "putting an end to the seizure of land and loosening the military grip".

When asked about the troops' withdrawal by Trump, the prelate states that "the United States does nothing for free and always has a plan B, if not C." We do not believe their words - warns Msgr. Hindo - and I personally doubt they will leave. The doubts remain about a possible attack by Turkey, as long as there is an American presence they will not cross the border ". The Kurds are trying to "re-establish relations with Damascus" but "not even they have a precise strategy" for the near future. In the meeting with the Kurdish leaders, the prelate concludes, "I told them that we Christians want peace, development, freedom and that they can not accuse the Syrian government of despotism, because they too behave in the same way" in the areas under their control.

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