Tuesday 20 March 2018

US prepared for 'military solution' to Isil if Syria peace talks fail

US Vice President Joe Biden Photo: REUTERS/Murad Sezer
US Vice President Joe Biden Photo: REUTERS/Murad Sezer

Asli Kandemir

US Vice President Joe Biden said yesterday that the United States and Turkey were prepared for a military solution against Islamic State in Syria should the Syrian government and rebels fail to reach a political settlement.

The latest round of Syria peace talks are planned to begin tomorrow in Geneva but were at risk of being delayed partly because of a dispute over who will comprise the opposition delegation.

Yesterday Syrian armed rebel groups said they held the Syrian government and Russia responsible for any failure of peace talks to end the country's civil war, even before negotiations were due to start.

"We know it would be better if we can reach a political solution but we are prepared ... if that's not possible, to have a military solution to this operation in taking out Daesh," Mr Biden said at a news conference after a meeting with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Daesh is the pejorative Arabic acronym for Islamic State (Isil) insurgents who hold parts of Syria.

A US official later clarified that Biden was talking about a military solution to Islamic State, not Syria as a whole.

The Saudi-backed Syrian opposition ruled out even indirect negotiations unless Damascus took steps including a halt to Russian air strikes.

Mr Biden said he and Mr Davutoglu also discussed how the two NATO allies could further support Sunni Arab rebel forces fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad.

The United States has sent dozens of special forces soldiers to help rebels fighting Isil in Syria although the troops are not intended for front-line combat.

Along with its allies Washington is also conducting air strikes against Isil militants who hold large chunks of Syria and Iraq, and supporting opposition fighters battling the group.

Saleh Muslim, co-chair of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), the main Kurdish political grouping in Syria, said on Friday the Syria peace talks would fail if Syrian Kurds are not represented.

While the US draws a distinction between PYD, whose fighters it supports, and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey, Mr Davutoglu reiterated the Turkish position that the PYD's military wing is part of and supported by the PKK.

The PYD's military wing, the People's Protection Units (YPG) has seized swathes of Syria from Isil with the help of US-led strikes and declared it an autonomous administration, to Ankara's chagrin.

Davutoglu said yesterday the YPG had become an increasing threat to Turkey.

He also told reporters Ankara was prepared to strike at YPG in northern Syria.

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