NATO-Turkey partnership needs to be strengthened: US defense chief
Mark Esper is in Brussels to attend NATO Defense Ministers meeting and he spoke on Oct. 24 in an event organized by German Marshall Fund (GMU), broadcast live on GMF's website.
"We need to work together to strengthen our partnership with Turkey and make sure they trend back to being the strong reliable ally, responsible ally that they have been in the past," Esper stressed.
Commenting on Turkey-U.S. tensions during Turkey's anti-terror operation in northeastern Syria, Esper said: "There was not a possibility we are going to start a war with a NATO ally. A NATO ally who has been a very good ally since its joining the alliance in 1952."
He said that Turkey, with regard to the alliance, is heading in the "wrong direction", referring to Turkey's rapprochement with Russia.
Esper said the U.S. defeated the physical caliphate of ISIL with their partnership with SDF by March 2018.
"Our commitment to the Kurds was not to help them establish an autonomous Kurdish state and defend them against Turkey," he added.
The U.S.-backed SDF, a group dominated by the YPG, has been controlling some 28 percent of the Syrian territories, including the most of the 911-kilometer-long Syria-Turkey border.
Turkey deems the YPG the Syrian offshoot of the illegal PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization also by the United States and the EU.
'No call for NATO mission in northeastern Syria'
There was no call for a NATO mission in northeastern Syria, the alliance's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Oct. 24.
"There has been no call for NATO mission in north-east Syria," Stoltenberg told reporters ahead of NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels, where he was asked if NATO foresees a role for the creation of a safe zone in northern Syria.
"I strongly believe that what we need is an effort to support a political process, a lasting political solution and therefore also NATO strongly supports UN-led efforts to find a political solution to the crisis in Syria," Stoltenberg added.
He said the defense ministers will discuss German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer's proposal for an "internationally controlled security zone" in northern Syria to stabilize the region.
"I think it is positive that NATO allies and in this case Germany, have proposals, have ideas on how we can move forward how we can create the conditions for a lasting and political solution," he added.