Esper: US intends to prevent Turkey invasion into Syria

International
Mark Esper

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper briefs the media at a press conference following annual bilateral ministerial talks in Sydney, Australia, Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

TOKYO (AP) — U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Tuesday that the U.S. intends to prevent any unilateral invasion by Turkey into northern Syria, saying any such move by the Turks would be unacceptable.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened an imminent attack in the northeast to push back U.S.-allied Syrian Kurdish Forces. American and Turkish military officials have been meeting in Ankara to try and negotiate a settlement to avoid the invasion, and Esper said Tuesday that he believes they have made progress on some of the key issues.

U.S. officials have made clear that an invasion is an extremely risky venture that could threaten the safety of U.S. forces working with the SDF and potentially impede the continued defeat of Islamic State militants in the region.

“What we’re going to do is prevent unilateral incursions that would upset, again, these mutual interests that the United States, Turkey and the SDF share with regard to northern Syria,” Esper told reporters traveling with him to Japan. He said the U.S. is trying to work out an arrangement that addresses Turkey’s concerns, adding, “I’m hopeful we’ll get there.”

He did not provide details on where progress is being made.

The dispute further weakens U.S. relations with NATO ally Turkey, coming closely on the heels of the Trump administration’s decision to remove Ankara from the American-led F-35 fighter aircraft program because it is buying a Russian air defense system that would aid Moscow’s intelligence.

The U.S. government’s concern is that the Russian S-400 system could be used to gather data on the capabilities of the F-35, and that the information could end up in Russian hands.

Esper said the U.S. will not abandon its SDF allies.

Hundreds of U.S. troops are stationed east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria working with the SDF, and an incursion by Turkey could put them in the middle of any firefight between Turkish and Kurdish forces.

Syrian Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, are the key element of the SDF. Turkey considers the YPG an existential threat and as terrorists with close links to a decades-long insurgency within its own border led by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.

The SDF, however, has been America’s main partner on the ground against the Islamic State group, and the Kurds are currently detaining thousands of foreign fighters. U.S. officials worry that those fighters could get free during a Turkish invasion into the Kurdish-held territory.

Turkey and the U.S. have been negotiating for months over the establishment of a safe zone along the Syrian border that would extend east of the Euphrates to Iraq.

Turkey wants to establish a 25-mile-deep zone. But so far the two sides have failed to reach an agreement.

Esper said Turkey is a long-standing ally and the U.S. is taking this one day at a time. And he suggested that the SDF issue is not new and is markedly different than an ally buying a Russian-made air defense system that could threaten an American aircraft.

“We’ve all seen this before. They have long-standing concerns about the PKK,” said Esper. “That’s why we want to work with them to address their legitimate security concerns going forward.”

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Overcast

Abbeville

64°F Overcast Feels like 64°
Wind
9 mph SE
Humidity
91%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

Cloudy skies during the evening with areas of fog developing after midnight. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. Low 64F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph.
66°F Cloudy skies during the evening with areas of fog developing after midnight. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. Low 64F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph.
Wind
8 mph S
Precip
20%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Waning Crescent
Overcast

Crowley

66°F Overcast Feels like 66°
Wind
8 mph SE
Humidity
96%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

Areas of patchy fog early. Overcast with a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly this evening. Low near 65F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 30%.
66°F Areas of patchy fog early. Overcast with a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly this evening. Low near 65F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 30%.
Wind
8 mph S
Precip
40%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Waning Crescent
Overcast

Opelousas

64°F Overcast Feels like 64°
Wind
10 mph SE
Humidity
96%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

Cloudy. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. Low near 65F. Winds SSE at 10 to 15 mph.
66°F Cloudy. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. Low near 65F. Winds SSE at 10 to 15 mph.
Wind
8 mph S
Precip
40%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Waning Crescent
Overcast

Breaux Bridge

66°F Overcast Feels like 66°
Wind
0 mph
Humidity
93%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

Areas of patchy fog early. Scattered thunderstorms early, then cloudy skies after midnight. Low around 65F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 40%.
66°F Areas of patchy fog early. Scattered thunderstorms early, then cloudy skies after midnight. Low around 65F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 40%.
Wind
9 mph S
Precip
40%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Waning Crescent
Overcast

New Iberia

67°F Overcast Feels like 67°
Wind
13 mph SSE
Humidity
100%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

Scattered showers and thunderstorms. Low 52F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 50%.
65°F Scattered showers and thunderstorms. Low 52F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 50%.
Wind
5 mph S
Precip
40%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Waning Crescent

Trending Stories

Sidebar