U.S. senator calls on Biden to pressure Turkey over Syrian Kurds

U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth has called on President Joe Biden to pressure Turkey “to curb its ongoing malign activities” against Syrian Kurds.

Ankara needs to fulfil its commitments as a NATO member by solving international conflicts in a peaceful manner, Duckworth said in a letter to Biden, Politico reported on Wednesday.

"America is back, and diplomacy is once again at the centre of our foreign policy,” the Democrat senator said.

Differences over the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of militias dominated by the Kurdish-led People's Protection Units (YPG), which spearheads the campaign against the Islamic State (ISIS), have been a long-standing cause of tension in U.S.-Turkey relations.

Ankara regards the YPG as the Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a terrorist designate by the United States and the European Union, which has been fighting for self-rule inside Turkey since 1984.

The new U.S. administration under Biden reiterated its support for the Kurdish-led forces in their ongoing operations against ISIS, a shift in tone from the more transactional approach taken by former President Donald Trump.

Duckworth called Biden to do more in support for the Syrian Kurds that stood “shoulder-to-shoulder" with the U.S. military forces against ISIS.

Duckworth also condemned Trump for encouraging Turkey’s military offensive against the SDF in northeast Syria in October 2019.

“This move created a humanitarian crisis that endangered tens of thousands of civilians, risked the release of ISIS prisoners and severely damaged our international credibility," she said.

"We must restore trust and confidence in our allies and partners to achieve our national objectives."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan launched the military incursion, dubbed Operation Peace Spring, into Syria on Oct. 9, 2019, days after Trump withdrew U.S. troops from the Syrian border.

Erdoğan vowed to resettle a large number of Turkey’s 3.6 million Syrian refugees in a planned 30km deep “safe zone” cleared of the SDF and other groups linked to the PKK.  

The offensive ended in nine days later after Turkey made two separate deals with the United States and Russia for the withdrawal of the SDF from along the Turkish-Syrian border.

During the offensive, Turkish forces captured the areas between Syrian border towns of Ras al-Ayn and Tel Abyad, once belonged to the Kurds.