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World U.S. chides Turkey for "heading in the wrong direction" in Syria

19:55  24 october  2019
19:55  24 october  2019 Source:   cbsnews.com

Five unintended consequences of Trump's Syria withdrawal

  Five unintended consequences of Trump's Syria withdrawal President Trump’s decision last week to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria, allowing Turkey to launch an offensive against Kurdish forces, has already had several unintended, albeit foreseeable, consequences. Trump has defended his move as fulfilling a campaign promise to end so-called forever wars.But from the day he announced the retreat from northern Syria, critics of the move have warned of wide-reaching repercussions, ranging from ceding U.S. influence in the Middle East to spurring a resurgence of ISIS.

Brussels — Turkey is "heading in the wrong direction" with its incursion into Syria and its deal with Russia to jointly patrol a "safe zone" there, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper warned Thursday.

"Turkey put us all in a very terrible situation" by sweeping into northern Syria this month to fight Kurdish militia members who were allied for years with the U.S. in the fight against ISIS, Esper told a conference in Brussels ahead of a NATO defense ministers' meeting.

Turkey operation creates headaches for NATO

  Turkey operation creates headaches for NATO Turkey's Syria offensive has created fresh divisions within NATO and, while there is no chance of Ankara being thrown out, the crisis adds to pressures on the alliance as it heads towards a crucial summit in December. Ankara's assault on Kurdish forces who played a key role in the fight against the Islamic State group has drawn widespread international criticism and prompted some NATO countries to suspend new arms sales.

President Trump cleared the way for the Turkish incursion, however, when he ordered the withdrawal of U.S. forces from northern Syria earlier this month. The White House said Mr. Trump had been unable to dissuade Turkey's leader from launching the offensive — one he had wanted to carry out for years.

On Wednesday, hours after Mr. Trump dropped U.S. sanctions against Ankara for its actions in Syria, Esper said "Turkey's irresponsible incursion into Northern Syria jeopardizes the gains made there in recent years."

The onus, he said, was now on Turkey's NATO allies to "work together to strengthen our partnership with them, and get them on the trend back to being the strong reliable ally of the past."

The issue of Turkey's military operation in Syria was set to dominate the two-day NATO meeting, with diplomats in the organization saying "frank" discussions with Ankara's representatives had already taken place.

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  Russia offers to mediate in Syria, asserting its role Russia offered Wednesday to mediate a resolution in northern Syria, further asserting Moscow's role as a regional force, ahead of a mission by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence to press Turkey for a cease-fire in its attack on Syrian Kurdish fighters. Ahead of talks with Pence, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan defied U.S. economic sanctions, saying the only way its military offensive would end was if Syrian Kurdish fighters leave a designated border area.Erdogan also said he had "no problem" accepting an invitation from Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit Russia soon to discuss Syria. But he threw into doubt a planned Nov.

Turkey's subsequent arrangement with Russia to clear Kurdish fighters who Turkey regards as "terrorists" has also raised hackles among NATO allies. Mr. Trump, however, has lauded the ceasefire deal as "a great outcome," and praised Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"We have done them a great service and we've done a great job for all of them, and now we're getting out," Mr. Trump said on Wednesday. "Let someone else fight over this long blood-stained sand."

Mr. Trump claimed those who had criticized his decision to pull American troops out of northern Syria had turned to praising him.

Kay Bailey Hutchison, Tim Floyd standing next to a person in a suit and tie: U.S. Secretary for Defense Mark Esper (C) and U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison (L) arrive for a meeting of NATO defense ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, October 24, 2019.© Provided by CBS Interactive Inc. U.S. Secretary for Defense Mark Esper (C) and U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison (L) arrive for a meeting of NATO defense ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, October 24, 2019.

"Today's announcement (of the Turkish-Russian agreement) validates our course of action with Turkey that only a couple of weeks ago was scorned and now people are saying, 'wow, what a great outcome, congratulations,'" Mr. Trump said.

The Latest: Turkey's Erdogan to travel to Russia for talks

  The Latest: Turkey's Erdogan to travel to Russia for talks President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's office says the Turkish leader will travel to Sochi, Russia for talks over Turkey's military offensive.Activists of the organization 'Women Defend Rochava' show the victory sign during a protest against the military operation of Turkey in the Kurdish areas in north-eastern Syria at the Federal press conference (Bundespressekonferenz) during a government's press conference in Berlin, Germany, on Oct. 16.

But the Kurds said Wednesday that the Turkish forces were continuing their onslaught in spite of the truce agreement, and they urged, "all parties and especially the US to monitor the implementation of the cease-fire agreement that they brokered and hold violators to account."

"Turkish army have been attacking villages of Assadiya, Mishrafa and Manajer with a large number of mercenaries and all kinds of heavy weapons despite the truce," Mustafa Bali, spokesman for the former U.S.-allied Kurds of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), said in a series of tweets on Wednesday. "SDF will exercise its right to legitimate self defense and we are not responsible for the violation of the agreement."

While isolated within NATO, Turkey's strategic position between Europe and the Middle East is seen as too important to jeopardize, so the other alliance members have limited themselves to relatively muted criticism.

Esper defended the Trump administration's decision to pull U.S. forces out of northern Syria, which Kurdish commanders and residents in the area have called a betrayal.

The Latest: Trump credits 'tough love' for cease-fire deal

  The Latest: Trump credits 'tough love' for cease-fire deal President Donald Trump is crediting his threat of sanctions on Turkey as "tough love" that led the country to agree to a five-day cease-fire in its battle with Kurds in northern Syria. 9:30 p.m.

"The U.S. decision to withdraw less than 50 soldiers from the zone of attack was made after it was made very clear to us that President Erdogan made the decision to come across the border," he said, adding that he would not "jeopardize the lives of those servicemen" nor "start a fight with a NATO ally."

He acknowledged "there has been some criticism" about the U.S. withdrawal "but nobody's yet offered a better alternative to what the United States did. We are trying to keep a very strategic perspective."

In total about 1,000 American forces are in the process of withdrawing from northern Syria into Iraq, but at least 200 were expected to remain in the country, in spite of two orders from Mr. Trump for a complete withdrawal, to help protect oil infrastructure from ISIS attack.

It was still unclear on Thursday exactly where the U.S. troops being relocated to Iraq will go next, but Iraq said on Wednesday they could only remain in the country for a month. Defense Minister Najah al-Shammari told The Associated Press after meeting Esper that the U.S. troops were merely "transiting" through Iraq, and that all of them would head to Kuwait, Qatar or back to the United States within a month.

There has been no confirmation of those plans from the Pentagon.

Putin and Erdogan Announce Plan for Northeast Syria, Bolstering Russian Influence .
His jets patrol Syrian skies. His military is expanding operations at the main naval base in Syria. He is forging closer ties to Turkey. He and his Syrian allies are moving into territory vacated by the United States. And on Tuesday, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia played host to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey for more than six hours of talks on how they and other regional players will divide control of Syria, devastated by eight years of civil war.The negotiations cemented Mr. Putin’s strategic advantage: Russian and Turkish troops will take joint control over a vast swath of formerly Kurdish-held territory in northern Syria.

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