US defense chief to ‘press’ for NATO response to Turkey

WASHINGTON 

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Tuesday he will rally NATO allies to take action against Turkey during the transatlantic alliance’s defense ministerial next week.

“I will be visiting @NATO next week where I plan to press our other NATO allies to take collective & individual diplomatic & economic measures” in response to Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring, Esper said on Twitter.

NATO defense ministers are set to convene in Brussels next Thursday through Friday as Turkey vows to continue its operation in northeastern Syria.

Norway, a NATO member, earlier Tuesday criticized Turkey’s anti-terror operation, but dismissed calls for suspending Ankara from the alliance.

“I think it’s better to have Turkey inside NATO than outside NATO,” Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said in a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. “It’s important to have them into our family, and discussion. I think it’s easier to work with them that way.”

The U.S. announced sanctions Monday on two Turkish ministries and three senior government officials for Turkey’s anti-terror operation in northeastern Syria.

Washington imposed sanctions on Turkey’s Ministry of National Defense and Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, as well as Minister of National Defense Hulusi Akar, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Fatih Donmez and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu.

“We are prepared to impose additional sanctions on Government of Turkey officials and entities, as necessary,” the department said in a statement.

Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring on Oct. 9 to eliminate terrorists from northern Syria in order to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.

Ankara wants to clear northern Syria east of the Euphrates of the terrorist PKK and its Syrian offshoot, the PYD/YPG.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union — has been responsible for deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.

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