The United States on Tuesday warned Turkey against launching a new military operation in northern Syria, saying an uneasy NATO ally would put US troops at risk.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that Turkey would soon launch a new military operation in northern Syria to create a “security zone” of 30 kilometers (19 miles) along the border.
State Department spokeswoman Ned Price told reporters that “we are deeply concerned about reports and discussions of possible military action in northern Syria, and increasing its impact on civilians in particular.”
“We condemn any kind of tension. We support the maintenance of the current ceasefire line,” he said.
UN spokesman Stephen Dujarric said a political solution and humanitarian aid should be a priority for war-torn Syria.
“We stand for Syria’s territorial integrity, and what Syria needs is no more than a quarterly military operation,” Dujarric told reporters.
Turkey has launched three attacks in Syria since 2016 aimed at wiping out Syrian Kurdish fighters who helped in the US-led operation against the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS.
The so-called People’s Protection Unit (YPG) is considered a “terrorist” by Turkey, which sees it as part of the banned PKK separatist movement in their homes.
Turkey ordered the last aggression in October 2019, after talks with then-US President Donald Trump Erdogan, who said US troops had completed their mission in Syria and would withdraw.
Even amid reactions from some of Trump’s allies, then-US Vice President Mike Pence flew to Turkey and reached an agreement with Erdogan calling for a ceasefire.
“We hope that Turkey will abide by the joint statement of October 2019, including the cessation of hostilities in northeastern Syria,” Price said.
“We recognize Turkey’s legitimate security concerns on Turkey’s southern border. But any new attack would further undermine regional stability and put US forces at risk in the coalition’s operation against ISIS,” Price said.
Erdogan’s offensive comes as he threatens to block NATO membership in Finland and Sweden, which have sought to join the Western alliance over fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Erdogan has accused the two Nordic states of backing the PKK, which is planning high-level talks with Turkey to ease their concerns.
Following Trump’s abrupt withdrawal in 2019, the YPG sought protection from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russia, the main supporters of the regime, which saw a major opportunity to replace the United States as a key player.
Russia and Turkey then negotiated a ceasefire, most of which were held.
Trump soon reversed the withdrawal, and there are still about 900 U.S. troops officially in Syria as part of the fight against the Islamic State movement.
President Joe Biden has shown no interest in withdrawing troops despite coming out of the 20-year war in Afghanistan last year.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)