Turkey issues arrest warrant for Syria’s leading Kurdish politician ‘to pressure the West’


PYD leader Salih Muslim (c) speaking to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Kobane. Photo: ARA News

ARA News

A Turkish court issued an arrest warrant for Salih Muslim on Tuesday, along with 47 members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. Salih Muslim is Syria’s leading Kurdish politician and the co-Chair of the Democratic Union Party (PYD).

The warrant accused Muslim of being involved in the planning of February’s bombing in Ankara, which killed more than a dozen civilians. The PYD’s co-Chair rejected these accusations, suggesting that Turkey was looking for a pretext to invade Northern Syria – Rojava (NSR).

“We know Turkey is ruled by [Presidential] decree. A made-up decree was issued against us. I doubt anyone will take this decree seriously,” Salih Muslim said in response.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has indicated that he already possesses a sufficient pretext to attack the NSR administration. On Tuesday, he told journalists that Turkey would attack the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Manbij city after it had defeated the Islamic State (ISIS) in nearby al-Bab.

Erdogan’s bellicose rhetoric, if realized, would lead to an expanded conflict between the Kurdish-led SDF and Turkish forces, participating in the Euphrates Shield Operation. While SDF fighters are advancing on al-Bab city from the east and west, Turkey-backed rebels are pushing into al-Bab from the north.

Macer Gifford was formerly a volunteer in the Kurdish People’s Protection Units and now serves as the Chief Executive of the Friends of Rojava Foundation. On Tuesday, he told ARA News that the indictment was “another attempt by the Turkish regime to isolate the Rojava administration. Erdogan wants to drive a wedge between the Syrian Kurds and their Western allies.”

“By conflating the separate conflicts that blight Turkey and Syria, Erdogan hopes to justify his aggressive plans for Rojava,” Gifford continued. “Not content with just locking up the Turkish opposition, Erdogan wants to interfere with the democratic movement in Rojava.”

Concluding, the Rojava Foundation’s Chief Executive said that the Muslim’s extraterritorial arraignment “is a violation of Syrian sovereignty and another way Turkey is inhibiting the fight against ISIS. He called on Western countries “to condemn this action and call on Turkey to back away from further provocative statements.”

Danish MP Nikolaj Villumsen echoed Gifford, telling ARA News that the “arrest order against Salih Muslim is an attack on the fight against Daesh and should be condemned by all democratic countries.”

“It’s urgent that Europe takes a firm step against Erdogan. We cannot accept his continued backstabbing in the fight against the Daesh,” Villumsen said, employing an Arabic acronym for ISIS. “Europe must choose the pro-democratic SDF and Kurds in Rojava instead of the despotic Turkish regime.”

Michael Stephens, the Director of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), told ARA News that the accusations were transparently “politically motivated and ultimately rather unproductive.”

“[Turkey’s prosecution] will not encourage Western nations to suddenly move away from the Syrian Kurds as the main fighting force against ISIS. However the linkage of Syrian Kurds to terrorist activity in Turkey places a bind on those who believe the Kurds should be given some political recognition,” Stephens continued.

“The aim will be to delegitimize the PYD in the eyes of the West, which may occur. But ultimately some clear proof linking Salih Muslim must be shown, if this is to happen,” Stephens reasoned.

Ankara’s history of volatile histrionic rhetoric has apparently diminished its international credibility. RUSI’s Director concluded his remarks, saying that the “angry rhetoric and politicized accusations from Ankara mean increasingly little these days.”

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News 

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