Europe and U.S. positive on Turkish Syria offensive – Erdoğan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told reporters during his return flight from Serbia on Wednesday that Turkey’s new military operation in northeast Syria enjoys support from Washington and Europe despite statements condemning the offensive, Turkish newspaper Hürriyet reported.
Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring against the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Wednesday, days after U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to pull American troops back from the border to make way for a Turkish advance.
The operation’s launch brought widespread protest among U.S. and European lawmakers, who see Trump’s move as a betrayal of the Kurdish forces that helped defeat the Islamic State (ISIS).
The European Union called on Turkey to halt its offensive on Wednesday, saying unilateral military action would undermine stability in the region.
But Erdoğan told reporters that the general view of the operation among EU countries was positive.
“Even beyond that, Britain is saying it wants to help. There have been similar comments from France,” Sabah reporter Şebnem Bursalı quoted Erdoğan as saying.
While Britain is one of Turkey’s closest European partners, France’s support of the SDF has frequently raised tensions between the countries.
On Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron met SDF spokeswoman Jihane Ahmed to express solidarity with the group’s fight against ISIS. The meeting was an opportunity for Macron to reiterate France’s deep concerns with the prospect of a Turkish attack.
Hours after the operation was launched, U.S. senators Lindsey Graham and Chris Van Hollen announced a draft bill that would see tough sanctions imposed on Erdoğan and top members of his cabinet.
There has been widespread concern raised among U.S. and EU lawmakers that the Turkish offensive will lead to heavy civilian casualties and could bring illegal demographic re-engineering as Erdoğan wishes to use the region to resettle Syrian refugees.
Trump later told reporters that he agreed with sanctions if Erdoğan pursued an “inhumane” military operation and that he would support “much tougher” action if he believed the Turkish President was acting unfairly.
Erdoğan was unconcerned with the threat, telling reporters that he believed Trump’s statements were made in response to domestic pressure.
The Turkish president hinted at Graham’s proposed sanctions, calling the senator “dishonest” and saying he had acted duplicitously by taking a stand against the operation after accepting Turkey’s rationale for opposing the SDF during visits to Turkey.
Turkey views the SDF as a terrorist organisation due to its links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which has fought the Turkish state for Kurdish autonomy since launching an armed uprising in 1984.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during an interview on Wednesday that while Washington had not given the operation the green light, Turkey had “a legitimate security concern” and a “terrorist threat to their south.”