Thursday, 24 October 2019

US lashes out at 'irresponsible ally' Turkey after Trump lifts sanctions

US lashes out at 'irresponsible ally' Turkey after Trump lifts sanctionsThe US secretary of defence has lashed out at Turkey, saying its Nato partner put America in a “very terrible situation" over its “unwarranted invasion”, a day after President Donald Trump lifted sanctions on Ankara. Mark Esper, in unusually sharp words for a US ally, said Turkey’s military assault across the border on Syrian Kurdish fighters jeopardises gains made there in recent years as the US-led coalition and allied Syrian Kurdish forces battled Islamic State. "Turkey put us all in a very terrible situation," he told the German Marshall Fund on Thursday, adding that Ankara needs to return to being the "responsible ally" it has been in the past. Turkey's offensive on northern Syria was internationally condemned after hundreds of thousands of civilians were forced to flee their homes and more than 80 Syrian civilians were killed. A Syrian man receives treatment on October 20, 2019, in the Syrian border town of Tal Abyad which was seized by Turkey-backed forces last week Credit: AFP Mr Trump’s special envoy for Syria went further in its criticism, saying the US had seen evidence of war crimes during Turkey’s offensive against the Kurds, and had demanded an explanation from Ankara. “Many people fled because they’re very concerned about these Turkish-supported Syrian opposition forces, as we are. We’ve seen several incidents which we consider war crimes,” James Jeffrey, special representative for Syria, told a House of Representatives hearing on Wednesday. He said US officials were looking into those reports and at “a high-level” had demanded an explanation from Turkey’s government.  Footage has circulated in the last two weeks of Syrian rebels fighting alongside the Turkish military executing civilians at the side of the road, including Kurdish politician Hevrin Khalaf. Kurdish politician Hevrin Khalaf was executed at the side of the road by Syrian rebels claiming to be from the Ahrar al-Sharqiya group A biopsy indicated that her legs and her jaw had been broken and that she had been dragged by her hair until the skin of her scalp came out, before being repeatedly shot. The issue of Turkey's military operation in Syria is set to dominate the two-day Nato meeting, with diplomats in the organisation saying "frank" discussions with Ankara's representatives have already taken place. Though it is thought European members will limit themselves to criticism only due to Turkey's strategic position between Europe and the Middle East. Turkey is looking increasingly isolated in Nato, both over its heavily criticised offensive in Syria and over its decision to purchase S-400 missiles defence systems from Russia. “The direction of Turkey with regard to the alliance is heading in the wrong direction, on any number of issues,” Mr Esper said in Brussels. “We see them getting closer to Russia’s orbit…and I think that’s unfortunate.”   The comments come on the heels of Mr Trump's announcement Wednesday that the US is lifting sanctions on Turkey after Ankara agreed to permanently stop fighting Kurdish forces in Syria.  Mr Trump is defending his decision to withdraw about 1,000 American troops from Syria, largely abandoning the Kurdish fighters who battled Isil alongside the US for the last several years.  Mr Trump has declared victory, saying the move is saving lives, but it also cedes control of a large swath of the border to Turkey, Russia and the Syrian government. He thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for negotiating a truce with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, which gives Kurdish fighters until Tuesday evening to withdraw from a 20-mile-deep buffer zone. "We saved the Kurds, Erdogan did the right thing," he said in an address at the White House. But he warned that the US could reimpose sanctions on Ankara if the ceasefire failed.




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