A Turkey soldier was killed and another was wounded on Sunday after an attack by the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia in northeast Syria’s Tel Abyad, the defence ministry said, despite a deal to pause military operations as militants withdraw from the area.
President Tayyip Erdogan agreed on Thursday in talks with United States Vice President Mike Pence a five-day pause in the offensive to allow time for the Kurdish fighters to withdraw from a “safe zone” Turkey aims to form in northeast Syria near its border.
On Saturday, the truce was holding along the border, with just a few Turkish military vehicles crossing, a Reuters reporter at the scene said. But Sunday’s attack has underlined how fragile the agreement is.
Ankara regards the YPG, the main component of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), as a terrorist group because of its links to Kurdish insurgents in southeast Turkey. The YPG has been a close U.S. ally in the fight against Islamic State, according to Reuters report.
In a statement, the defence ministry said an attack by the YPG with anti-tank and light weapons had struck Turkish soldiers carrying out a reconnaissance and surveillance mission in Tel Abyad on Sunday.
“The immediate response based on self-defence was given,” the ministry said. “Despite the Safe Zone Agreement with the United States… 20 harassments/violations were committed by PKK/YPG terrorists,” it said.
On Friday, the Kurdish militia accused Turkey of violating the five-day pause by shelling civilian areas in the northeast and the border town of Ras al Ain.
A senior Turkish official later dismissed the accusations on Saturday, saying these were an attempt to sabotage the agreement between Ankara and Washington, and that Turkey fully supported the deal.