By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) – Turkey "correctly" notes a significant number of Kurds fled northeastern Syria fearing Daesh/ISIS and the YPG/PYD, the U.S. special envoy to the anti-Daesh coalition said Thursday.
"The Turks also point out correctly that there is a large number, their estimate is 350,000, I don’t think it’s that far off, of Kurds who fled northeast Syria, some from Daesh, some, to be honest from the YPG/PYD," James Jeffrey told reporters during a news conference at the end of the anti-Daesh coalition's gathering of foreign ministers.
"And those people want to come back as well. And a Kurd is a Kurd," Jeffrey added.
The YPG and its political wing, the PYD, are the Syrian offshoots of the PKK, a designated terror organization in the U.S. and Turkey.
Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring on Oct. 9 to eliminate YPG/PKK terrorists from northern Syria east of the Euphrates River in order to secure Turkey's borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees and ensure Syria's territorial integrity.
Ankara wants YPG/PKK terrorists to withdraw from the region so that a safe zone can be created to pave the way for the safe return of some two million refugees.
On Oct. 17, the U.S. and Turkey came to an agreement to pause the operation to allow the withdrawal of terrorist YPG/PKK forces from the planned safe zone, where Ankara wants to repatriate millions of Syrian refugees it is currently hosting.
Jeffrey said Ankara assured him any repatriation of refugees "will be a return of people from the area, and it will be done in conjunction with the UN's refugee agency and its rules of "safe, dignified and voluntary" returns.
"The Turks have been in touch with the UNHCR on this. This was part of our communique that they signed up to a few hours ago," Jeffrey said, also praising Ankara's "extraordinarily good job" in hosting Syrian refugees.