U.S. to prevent Turkish incursion into Syria, Esper says

The United States intends to prevent a Turkish invasion of Syria to fight Kurdish militants allied with Washington, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said, according to the Associated Press.

A unilateral incursion by NATO ally Turkey would be unacceptable because it would destabilise the area, Esper said, the news wire reported.

“What we’re going to do is prevent unilateral incursions that would upset, again, these mutual interests that the United States, Turkey and the SDF share with regard to northern Syria,” Esper told reporters.

The United States is seeking to address Turkey’s legitimate security concerns, Esper said, adding that he was hopeful that this could be achieved.

Turkey says the militants, part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting for autonomy in Turkey for four decades at the cost of about 40,000 lives, most of them Kurdish. The PKK is recognised as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

U.S. officials are in Turkey this week for talks aimed at preventing Turkish military action. Ankara has been amassing troops and artillery on its eastern border with Syria in preparation for a possible invasion.

Esper said any unilateral action would threaten the lives of U.S. troops working alongside the SDF in Syria’s north. He also said a military operation by Turkey would compromise efforts to prevent a resurgence of Islamic States (ISIS) in Syria.