U.S. defense secretary on Thursday called for strengthening NATO’s partnership with Turkey.
Mark Esper is in Brussels to attend NATO Defense Ministers meeting and he spoke on Thursday in an event organized by German Marshall Fund (GMU), broadcast live on GMF’s website.
“We need to work together to strengthen our partnership with Turkey and make sure they trend back to being the strong reliable ally, responsible ally that they have been in the past,” Esper stressed.
Commenting on Turkey-U.S. tensions during Turkey’s anti-terror operation in northeastern Syria, Esper said: “There was not a possibility we are going to start a war with a NATO ally. A NATO ally who has been a very good ally since its joining the alliance in 1952.”
He said that Turkey, with regard to the alliance, is heading in the “wrong direction”, referring to Turkey’s rapprochement with Russia.
Esper said the U.S. defeated the physical caliphate of Daesh with their partnership with SDF by March 2018.
“Our commitment to the Kurds was not to help them establish an autonomous Kurdish state and defend them against Turkey,” he added.
The YPG/PKK terrorist group in Syria uses the acronym SDF as a cover for receiving U.S. support.
On Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin had agreed on a 10-point plan on Tuesday to create a terror-free safe zone in northern Syria and they reiterated their commitment to the political unity and territorial integrity of Syria.
According to the agreement, PKK/YPG terrorists will pull back 30 kilometers (19 miles) from Turkey’s border within 150 hours and security forces from Turkey and Russia will conduct joint patrols there.
Earlier this month, Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring to eliminate all terrorist groups from northeastern Syria and to create the conditions for the safe return of Syrian refugees.
After strong opposition by the U.S. administration to the operation, Ankara and Washington reached a deal on Oct. 17 to pause the operation for 120 hours to allow the withdrawal of YPG/PKK terrorists from the planned safe zone.
Turkey has long called on the U.S. to end its support for the YPG/PKK group, stressing that “one cannot rely on a terrorist organization while fighting another terrorist group”.
Ankara repeatedly expressed its determination to clear northern Syria of both Daesh and YPG/PKK terrorist groups.
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. The YPG is the PKK’s Syrian offshoot.
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