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Nov 21 2018

U.S. to set up observation points in Syria to prevent Turkey-SDF clashes - U.S. Defense Minister

Defense Secretary James Mattis on Wednesday said the United States is preparing to set up observation points in northern Syria in a move to address Ankara's concerns over the U.S.' relationships with the PKK-affiliated People's Protection Units (YPG), independent news site Diken reported.

The observation points are designed to prevent clashes between the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), comprised mostly of the Kurdish YPG, and Turkey, Mattis said, noting that Ankara has "legitimate" concerns about terror threats in Syria and the U.S. does not dismiss any of its concerns, while addressing reporters at the Pentagon.

"We are going to track any threat that we can spot going up into Turkey. That means we will be talking to Turkey's military across the border," the U.S. defense minister noted, highlighting that the United States is consulting "closely" with the Turkish military and the State Department.

Ankara strongly disagrees with the United States backing the YPG, which Turkey maintains is a terrorist organisation no different from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group at war in Turkey for over 30 decades.

U.S. troops have armed and trained YPG fighters who make up the bulk of the U.S.-backed SDF that has pushed Islamic State (ISIS) out of most of northern Syria.

Turkey has repeatedly voiced its concern regarding the partnership between the United States and the YPG.

Ankara earlier this month announced that it would launch a large scale operation east of River Euphrates, a region controlled by U.S. backed SDF, and started shelling YPG positions.

Washington, in response, called both parties to de-escalate the situation, warning that American personnel may be present in areas shelled by Turkish Armed Forces. 

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