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US says it seeks to eliminate PKK presence in Syria

US Special Representative for Syria James Jeffrey visits the Cilvegozu border gate in Turkey's Hatay province on 3 March 2020 [Cem Genco/Anadolu Agency]
US Special Representative for Syria James Jeffrey visits the Cilvegozu border gate in Turkey's Hatay province on 3 March 2020 [Cem Genco/Anadolu Agency]

The US is reportedly seeking to reduce and eliminate the presence of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Syria, according to Special Representative for Syria Engagement Ambassador James Jeffrey.

Speaking in an interview with the news outlet Syria Direct earlier this week, Jeffrey maintained the US' stance that the PKK is a terrorist organisation and stated: "We want to see the PKK cadre leave Syria." He acknowledged that its presence in the war-torn country "is a major reason why there is tension with Turkey in the northeast, [and] we want to reduce that tension."

The primary reason why the US aims to reduce that tension, he said, is due to the fact that "in all other areas other than the northeast, we have very close coordination with Turkey on the Syrian situation." He added that "even in the northeast, as I said, we have an agreement with Turkey in terms of military [movement]."

Over the past few years, the US has allied itself with Kurdish militias in the north-east of Syria such as the Peoples' Protection Units (YPG) and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), arming and militarily assisting them in their previous fight against Daesh.

READ: Erdogan warns of new operation in Syria if Kurd militants not removed

Turkey was always opposed to that alliance due to the links the YPG and SDF reportedly have with the PKK, a designated terrorist group and Kurdish separatist movement which has conducted numerous attacks within Turkey over the decades.

The US thus seeks to calm Turkey's fears of a strengthened PKK, with Jeffrey assuring that his country aims to encourage and help build a civilian administration in Syria's north-east rather than a solely military one. "There has to be a civilian administration because, as you know, the regime retreated from that area back in 2013," he said.

In the interview, Jeffrey also reiterated the need for a "political solution to the Syrian crisis that reflects the will of the UN Security Council Resolution 2254." This political solution "is absolutely necessary," condemning Russia and President Bashar al-Assad's regime for refusing to work out a long-term deal with opposition forces.

In light of the US elections and the current uncertainty of a victory for President Donald Trump or his rival Joe Biden, many have speculated on whether the country's foreign policy towards Syria will change with a new administration.

Jeffrey dismissed those speculations, saying that the US' present policy "will continue" and that "I see no change in our troop presence, I see no change in our sanctions policy, I see no change in our demand that Iran leave Syria, be it with a Biden administration or Trump one."

READ: Trump or Biden doesn't really matter; Palestine and its people will be betrayed

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