Turkey infuriated by ‘unilateral’ US actions in Syria: Russian FM Lavrov
MOSCOW / WASHINGTON
Unilateral U.S. actions in Syria infuriated Turkey, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said, adding that Washington’s bid to cooperate with the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara sees as a terrorist group, is a misunderstanding if not a provocation.
“Either it is a misunderstanding of the whole situation, or a deliberate provocation,” Anadolu Agency quoted Lavrov as saying at a press conference in Moscow on Jan. 22.
“We have already drawn attention to the fact that the U.S. have embarked on the creation of alternative authorities in large parts of Syrian territory,” Lavrov said.
“In Syria, Washington supplies arms both openly and discreetly to groups that cooperate with them, especially the SDF,” he said referring to the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is largely dominated by the YPG.
“The U.S. has announced the creation of certain ‘border forces’ in Syria. Clumsy denials followed. But the fact is they are still trying to control the border,” Lavrov said.
“There needs to be a role for Kurds in the Syrian political process, but that role must work on a common platform: All members of the Syrian political settlement must respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria.”
Turkey on Jan. 20 launched “Operation Olive Branch” to remove the YPG from Syria’s Afrin.
The U.S. has expressed concern for the “Turkish incident” in northern Syria and is asking both Ankara and the YPG militants to show restraint.
“We are concerned about the Turkish incident in Northern Syria,” Tillerson said during a trip to London, according to a pool report supplied to Reuters.
“We recognize and fully appreciate Turkey’s legitimate right to protect its own citizens from terrorist elements,” he said.
Tillerson said he was asking both sides to minimize civilian casualties, and that the U.S. was aiming to “see what we can do to work together to address Turkey’s legitimate security concerns.”
His remarks followed a statement by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who said on Jan. 21 that Turkey has legitimate security concerns regarding insurgencies inside its own borders.
“Turkey is a NATO ally. It’s the only NATO country with an active insurgency inside its borders. And Turkey has legitimate security concerns,” Mattis told reporters in a plane headed for Asia.
Noting that the overall success against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) “does not touch many of Turkey’s concerns,” Mattis said it was “easy to understand” why Ankara is worried that the conflict would extend beyond the Syrian border.
“Turkey was candid. They warned us before they launched the aircraft they were going to do it, in consultation with us,” Mattis told reporters.
“We are very alert to it. Our top levels are engaged ... And we’re working through it,” he also said.
Turkey’s NATO ally Britain said it would search for ways to stop any further escalation of violence in Syria after Turkey opened a new front in the country’s war.
“We recognize Turkey has a legitimate interest in the security of its borders,” Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman said on Jan. 22.
“The U.K. is committed to working closely with Turkey and other allies to find solutions that provide stability, refrain from escalating the situation, and protect Turkey’s security interests,” they added.