In an unexpected move, the US has given the green light to Turkey to invade north-eastern Syria and launch an operation against Kurdish-led forces YPG that had until now received strong support from the US, which has hundreds of troops in Syria.
Washington’s extraordinary move to support to Ankara’s territorial expansion plans is expected to put also Greece under pressure, as it may be confronted with increased refugees flows, this time Kurds.
“Turkey will become responsible for all Islamic State (IS) group prisoners in the area,” the US statement issued on Sunday night said. At the same time, Trump blamed at the same time European countries for its decision.
International media describe the White House decision as “major shift.”
Turkey wants to clear Kurdish militiamen – whom it regards as terrorists – away from the border.
In January, President Trump threatened to “devastate Turkey economically” if it attacked Kurdish forces following a planned US pullout from Syria.
However, the White House statement issued on Sunday makes no reference to the YPG, which has played a leading role in defeating IS – also known as Isis – in Syria.
Late on Sunday, Erdogan’s office said that he and President Trump had spoken on the phone about Turkey’s plan to set up a “safe zone” in North-Eastern Syria.
Erdogan showed his plans for a “safe zone” at the UN Assembly last month.
It said the move was needed to combat “terrorists” and create “the conditions necessary for the return of Syrian refugees to their native country”.
Turkey hosts more than 3.6 million Syrians who fled the civil war that began in 2011. It wants to move up to two million of the refugees from its territory into the zone.
In his call with Trump, President Erdogan also expressed his “frustration over the US military and security bureaucracy’s failure” to implement an agreement about the zone reached in August, his office said.
On Saturday, he warned that Turkish forces could launch a cross-border offensive in the coming days.
He has not given any details about the scale of the planned offensive.
Turkey’s invasion is generally considered as “imminent.”
Ankara’s “safe zone” will extend the country’s borders 30 km into Syria.
The safe zone will have a length 300-480 km and a depth of 30-40 km inside Syria. Map source: Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu.
PS So much about US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statement in Athens on Saturday that the US would take diplomatic actions for “Turkey’s illegal drilling in Cyprus.” The threat has been translated into “granting Turkey a part of Syria.”