Exclusive: US-Turkish Alert in Northern Syria

Exclusive: US-Turkish Alert in Northern Syria

US Senior Official Stresses Commitment to Security of NATO Allies
Friday, 9 November, 2018 - 09:15
Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) fighters prepare their weapons in Ras Al-Ain countryside. (Reuters)
London - Ibrahim Hamidi
With the mounting Turkish military pressure on the region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in northern Syria, Washington seeks to balance the mission to defeat ISIS and achieve stability in the area with the necessity to maintain relations with Turkey as the two countries are NATO members.

A US administration official told Asharq Al-Awsat that his country was “fully committed to the security of Turkey’s borders."

Turkey’s concerns about the security of East Euphrates deserve a detailed and serious discussion between us that fits for two close allies,” he said.

The Turkish army bombed sites of the Kurdish People Protection Units (YPG) in Ain al-Arab (Kobani) in northern Syria. The YPG is the main component of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an ally of the US-led international coalition and is fighting ISIS.

In response, the coalition dispatched patrols in northern Syria, along with the borders with Turkey, in an attempt to warn Ankara and to send signals about the prospects of the coming phase.

Although relations between Washington and Ankara were tense at the time, the two sides reached a roadmap for Manbij at the beginning of June, which included joint patrols along the lines of contact between the factions of the Euphrates Shield operation backed by Ankara and the SDF, as well as the removal of units from Manbij and the formation of a local council with the agreement of the local residents, the US and Turkey.

Currently, US-Turkish relations look better than before, with a series of bilateral steps. But the Turkish military began to escalate military pressure in northeastern Syria, where thousands of US troops are deployed with hundreds of coalition forces. Ankara also began to mobilize Syrian factions for possible ground action against the YPG.

In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, a US official stressed his country’s commitment to Turkey’s security as a NATO ally.

“Turkey is an ally within NATO and a key partner in the international coalition against ISIS,” he said. “For our part, we are fully committed to the security of its borders. The Manbij roadmap is one example of how we held consultations and coordination with Turkey to address its security concerns.”

The US official went on to say that Turkey’s concerns about the security of East Euphrates “deserve a detailed and serious discussion between us that fits for two close allies.”

“We will continue to work with Turkey to address its concerns at the same time as we stress the need for stability in northeast Syria to ensure the complete defeat of ISIS,” he added.

Perhaps one of the foreseeable possibilities is the establishment of a security line along the border, in which the YPG will be removed and patrols will be conducted by Arabs from the SDF and the International Alliance to meet Turkey’s demands.

According to an international official, Washington’s allies in the east of the Euphrates will be in the next phase under a two-sided pressure: Turkey, which bombs the units’ areas on one hand, and the Arab tribes that will move against Washington’s allies on the other.

But Washington is taking control of this region as part of its strategy for the Middle East, which includes confronting Iran to cut the Tehran-Baghdad and Damascus-Beirut supply routes.

In this regard, the US official said: “The mission of the American military forces in Syria is to ensure the total defeat of ISIS. The US also relies on the use of many elements of the national force to achieve two additional strategic objectives of the same importance in Syria: to ensure the withdrawal of forces operating under the leadership of Iran from all Syrian territory, and to promote efforts to reach a peaceful political solution to the conflict in accordance with UN Security Council resolution 2254.”

He stressed that the key to a political solution was the formation of the constitutional committee before the end of the year, highly praising a statement issued in this regard by the leaders of Turkey, Russia, France and Germany after the Istanbul summit in late October.

“We are optimistic about this announcement,” the US official said.

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