Mar 14 2019

No Turkish offensive necessary in northeast Syria - U.S.

The United States is not discussing another Turkish offensive in northeast Syria as it believes no such operation is needed to establish a safe zone, a U.S. official told Reuters on Wednesday, contradicting an earlier Turkish statement.

On Tuesday, defence ministry spokeswoman Nadide Sebnem Aktop said Ankara and the United States were discussing an offensive in a region controlled by Kurdish-led fighters. “On preparations for the east of the Euphrates, which is still on the agenda, coordination with the United States and Russia in particular continue,” she said.

The next day a U.S. official dismissed this assertion. “The U.S. is not discussing a Turkish offensive into northeast Syria with Turkey,” the official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“We have had repeated discussions on a security mechanism or ‘safe zone’ in northeast Syria that would address Turkey’s security concerns. The details of the security mechanism are being discussed and developed, but from the U.S. perspective would not require a Turkish offensive.”

Turkey wants to set up a safe zone in the border area east of the Euphrates River after the majority of U.S. troops pull out of the country.

The U.S. military has been supporting the Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG) there who are fighting Islamic State. Turkey views the YPG as linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency within Turkey and which Ankara labels a terrorist group, and has repeatedly threatened to launch operations against them.