NATO welcomes Turkish-US joint efforts for northern Syria, Stoltenberg says

Published 06.03.2019 00:31

NATO is content with the Turkish and U.S. efforts to find a peaceful solution to the security issue in northeastern Syria, along the Turkish border, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday.

Talking about the alliance's stance on a plan to establish a multinational observer force to monitor the situation in northeastern Syria following the U.S. withdrawal, Stoltenberg said NATO was a part of the international anti-Daesh coalition and contributed to the cause by training Iraqi security forces and deploying AWACS early warning and electronic warfare aircraft.

He added that NATO was not active on the ground in Syria, although some NATO countries were. "Some allies, such as Turkey and the U.S. maintain their presence in the field in Syria outside the NATO framework. We welcome those members' efforts to find a peaceful solution to the problem while being in contact," Stoltenberg told a group of female journalists, whom he met ahead of International Women's Day on March 8.

In January, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that Turkey will establish a safe zone in northern Syria along the length of its border with the assistance of U.S.-led coalition forces. In a recent phone call, Erdoğan and U.S. President Donald Trump confirmed their determination to establish a 32-kilometer safe zone.

Even though Ankara has clearly stressed that the planned safe zone should be under Turkey's control, U.S. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said last month that the U.S. aims to attract more Europeans to the region to be part of a stabilizing force.

The PKK terrorist group's Syrian affiliate, the People's Protection Units (YPG), currently controls most of northeastern Syria. While the establishment of a safe zone would eliminate some of Turkey's security concerns, the presence of the YPG in Syria and its plan to form a quasi-state will continue to present a threat to the country.

Furthermore, the U.S.' longstanding partnership with the YPG, under the guise of the fight against Daesh and its heavy arms support to the group, have opened deep wounds in ties with Turkey that are yet to heal.

Ankara has been underlining that it will not allow the YPG to strengthen its grip on Syria. Turkey was prepared to launch an operation east of the Euphrates to eliminate the YPG. However, following the U.S. decision to withdraw its troops from Syria, Ankara decided to put the operation temporarily on hold.

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