The United States on Tuesday voiced concern over Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s plans to launch new military operations on the country’s southern border, saying any new incursion into northern Syria would undermine regional stability and put US troops at risk.
The US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that they were ‘deeply concerned’ about reports of increased military activity in northern Syria, and particularly its impact on the civilian population there.
He also stated that they recognised Turkey’s legitimate security concerns on its southern border, but that any new attack would further weaken regional stability and put the US forces and the coalition’s campaign against ISIS at risk.
He added that the US expects Turkey to adhere to the October 2019 joint statement regarding a ceasefire, including a halt in offensive operations in north eastern Syria, and that it also supports the maintenance of the current ceasefire lines.
On Monday, Erdoğan had sent out signals of a new Turkish incursion into northern Syria.
“These operations will begin as soon as preparations by the armed forces, intelligence units and police force have been concluded. They will discuss these issues in detail at the National Security Council meeting on Thursday in order to come to a decision,” he said.
The operation will likely target the People’s Defence Units (YPG) and Women’s Defence Units (YPJ) that successfully battled and defeated ISIS in coalition with the US.
Erdoğan made the statement about the new planned invasion of north and east Syria soon after Turkey had expressed its objections to Finland and Sweden becoming NATO members.
Analysts say the surprise announcement reflected his belief that the West would not oppose such operations at a time when it needs Ankara’s support for the Nordic countries’ bid to join NATO.
“I spoke to Erdoğan on Saturday and he explained Turkey’s concerns about terrorism,” the NATO secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said yesterday at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. “I also recognise the importance of addressing the concerns that Turkey has raised.”