US says it supports Turkey’s ‘legitimate interests’ in Idlib
The United States supports Turkey’s “legitimate interests” in Syria’s last rebel bastion of Idlib, and its presence in the province, James Jeffrey, the U.S. special envoy for Syria engagement and fight against ISIL, has said.
In an interview with private broadcaster NTV, Jeffrey said that the U.S. supports Turkey’s interests in Idlib.
“We support Turkey’s presence,” he added.
Jeffrey arrived in Ankara on Feb. 11 to hold talks with officials, amid straining ties with Russia over the Idlib escalation.
Regarding the retaliation of regime attacks, Jeffrey said that the Turkish forces “have the right to defend themselves in Idlib.”
“We understand that Turkey is retaliating against regime forces. We are looking to find out how we can help as a NATO ally,” he said. “The people of Turkey cannot deal with this disaster alone.”
Jeffrey added that cooperation in intelligence and transferring equipment is “quite important” regarding this.
“We also need to ensure that our diplomatic approach is coordinated. Because our forces are present [in Idlib] too,” he added.
He also conveyed that the U.S. along with many countries, seek a diplomatic solution in Syria. “But today, our point is Idlib.”
“We have common geostrategic goals in Syria and Libya,” he added.
Turkey most damaged nation by ISIL
Jeffrey also conveyed that Turkey has suffered the most damage by ISIL, ever since it re-emerged in 2013.
“There were attacks in Istanbul, Ankara. There were attacks in [Turkey’s] bordering cities. You also launched very successful operations,” he said.
“Daesh is still a big threat. We will continue to fight against [it]. Our aim is to eliminate Daesh,” he added, using the Arabic acronym for ISIL.
US abided by Turkey deal on YPG
The official also said that the U.S. adhered to the agreement it hammered with Turkey regarding the withdrawal of the YPG from the “Operation Peace Spring” area.
Turkey struck a deal with the U.S. on Oct. 17, 2019 to suspend its military offensive in northern Syria, in return for Washington ensuring a pullout of the YPG from a proposed “safe zone.”
Ankara concluded a separate deal with Russia on Oct. 22 under which Moscow agreed to ensure the withdrawal of the YPG from adjacent areas.
Turkey launched “Operation Peace Spring” to push the YPG back from its border and create room to repatriate Syrian refugees.
Jeffrey said that the area the YPG had to withdraw from was within the context of Ankara’s deal with Moscow and the U.S. “does not follow that point very closely.”
“There can be disagreement with Russia, as a contracting party, regarding the YPG’s withdrawal,” he said.
Jeffrey also said that the conflict in Syria was caused by Russia and Bashar al-Assad.