imageQAMISHLI: Kurdish forces in Syria, where they have been targeted by Turkish artillery, said Thursday they would respect a ceasefire due to start this weekend but retain the right to "retaliate" if attacked.

"We, the People's Protection Units (YPG), give great importance to the process of cessation of hostilities announced by the United States and Russia and we will respect it, while retaining the right to retaliate... if we are attacked," YPG spokesman Redur Xelil said on his Facebook page.

A Russian and US-brokered ceasefire between President Bashar al-Assad's regime and non-jihadist rebels is due to go into effect at 2200 GMT on Friday, as part of efforts to resume peace talks to end five years of war.

The YPG leads the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of Kurdish and Arab fighters that on Thursday welcomed the truce on the same terms.

"Our forces will respect the cessation of hostilities if the accord is implemented while retaining their right to self-defence," the SDF said in a statement.

From the outset of the conflict, Syria's Kurds have distanced themselves from both the Damascus regime and the rebels to edge towards autonomy in their heartland along Turkey's border, establishing a local administration spanning from northwest to northeast Syria.

But the rise of the Islamic State group, which has seized large parts of the war-torn country, has led the Kurds to become implicated in several battles against the jihadists.

Syrian Kurds have taken advantage of the regime's gains this year against rebels in Aleppo province to seize areas around 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the Turkish border.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Thursday said the ceasefire was only valid inside Syria and was "not binding" for Turkey if its national security was threatened.

Turkey, which regards the YPG as an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), last week targeted Kurdish fighters inside Syria with artillery barrages, saying the army was responding to incoming fire.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2016


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