Turkey denies attacking United States troops in Syria

Cheryl Sanders
October 20, 2019

Esper said the U.S. planned to withdraw about 1,000 troops deployed in northern Syria, adding that the fighting between Turkey and the Kurds "has its roots in conflict that goes back 200 years".

Esper said he was aware of reports of hundreds of IS prisoners escaping as a result of the Turkish invasion and of atrocities being committed against Syrian Kurds by members of a Turkish-supported Syrian Arab militia.

Requested by Egypt, the meeting of the AL council of foreign ministers was held a couple of days after Turkey started on Wednesday an offensive on Kurdish-controlled areas in northeastern Syria, bordering southern Turkey, after the withdrawal of USA troops from the area. Esper said the Kurds have been good partners, "but at the same time, we didn't sign up to fight the Turks on their behalf".

The Turkish operation is carried out in cooperation with a Turkish-backed rebel armed group active in parts of northern Syria, formerly known as "the Free Syrian Army".

SDF official Marvan Qamishlo said that Kurdish-led security forces do not have enough guards for the camp.

In Washington, chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Defense Secretary Mark Esper "made clear" in a phone call Thursday with his Turkish counterpart that the USA opposes the incursion.

The U.N. refugee agency said tens of thousands of people have fled their homes since Wednesday, while the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitoring group, put the figure at more than 60,000.

But the question arises when tackling the dimensions of the safe zone and what is considered acceptable to the US.

The immediate focus of Turkey's military plans appears to be around a section of the border between the towns of Ras al Ain and Tel Abyad, which are about 100km apart.

Of their assertion the Kurds mentioned that the settlement struck with the Damascus authorities "paves the way to liberate the rest of the Syrian cities occupied by the Turkish army such as Afrin", a majority Kurdish enclave within the northwest.

Egypt called the emergency meeting to discuss what it called Turkey's "blatant aggression" against Syria's sovereignty.

It had been pushing the United States to jointly establish a "safe zone" extending 32km into Syrian territory, but repeatedly warned it could take unilateral military action after accusing Washington of dragging its feet.

President Donald Trump cleared the way for Turkey's air and ground assault after he pulled American troops from their positions near the border, drawing swift bipartisan criticism that he was endangering regional stability and abandoning Syrian Kurdish forces that brought down the Islamic State group in Syria.

The operation could reshape the map of the Syrian conflict once again, dealing a blow to Kurdish-led forces that have battled Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) while widening Turkey's territorial control at the border.

Mr. Esper, calling it "a very awful situation", said he spoke to Mr. Trump on Saturday evening.

The statement didn't say whether Macron urged US forces to intervene. The necessary measures would have been taken to prevent USA mail from being hit.

France has suffered multiple deadly attacks by IS-linked radicals.

The Kurdish-led Syria Democratic Forces made an appeal for the closure of airspace and other measures at a news conference on Saturday in northeastern Syria.

Anadolu news agency said Saturday the forces have arrived at the M-4 highway that connects the Syrian towns of Manbij and Qamishli.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also said the U.S has full authority to impose sanctions quickly on Turkey that could include shutting down all US dollar transactions with the country's entire government - which is a step the administration may take. Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said 342 "terrorists" - Ankara's term for Syrian Kurdish militiamen - have been killed so far. The road is about 30 kilometers (19 miles) south of the Turkish border.

Other reports by iNewsToday