saleh_muslim.jpg
Saleh Muslim
Photograph: By Jan Bojer Vindheim (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Syrian Kurdish leader Saleh Muslim called Thursday on the European Union for humanitarian and political support, after he said a ground offensive by Turkey into northern Syria was cutting off their supplies.

"We are dying every day because of lack of treatment," Muslim said during a visit to the European Parliament in Brussels.

"People need everything. It's difficult to find baby milk for children. In the summer it's really difficult to find water," Muslim, the co-president of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), added.

He also called for "political help, aside from humanitarian," without going into detail.

Turkey has said its operations inside Syria, launched last week, are aimed at both the Islamic State extremist group and the PYD, which it regards as the Syrian branch of Kurdish rebels operating on its soil.

A spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday that the PYD-linked People's Protection Units would remain a target for Turkish forces as long as the militia is present to the west of the Euphrates River.

Muslim said the militia group had returned to its bases east of the river, while adding that they had a "right to go everywhere" in Syria.

The Kurdish leader predicted in an interview with dpa that the Turkish incursion into northern Syria would not last long.

“I think Turkey would not have a lot of staying power. They cannot bear losing a tank or a military vehicle,” Muslim added in the interview conducted by phone from Cairo.

He advocated a federal system of administration declared by PYD and several allied groups in northern Syria in March.

“We have repeatedly said that our federal project is for Syria as a whole. Have we had the power, we would have liberated Damascus and applied there what we have done in the areas we liberated [in northern Syria].” 

Last month, the Syrian Democratic Forces, dominated by PYD's armed wing, recaptured the town of Minbij in northern Syrian near the Turkish from Islamic State, in a major blow to the al-Qaeda splinter group.

The US-backed breakthrough has emphasized the substantial role of the Kurdish forces in battling Islamic State in Syria.

Muslim denied having contacted President of Iraq’s autonomous region of Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani, following the Turkish offensive in Syria.

“The opposite is true. There is clear coordination between Barzani and Erdogan,” Muslim said without elaborating. 

The Kurds are now the dominant group in northern Syria, after seizing back territory from Islamic State with the help of air support from a US-led international coalition.

But Turkey wants to prevent them from extending their control near its border, fearing consequences among Turkish Kurds who are fighting for autonomy.

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