ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – UK Middle East Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa, Alistair Burt, said the withdrawal of American troops from Syria should not affect the fight against the Islamic State, nor result in Turkish incursions against Syrian Kurds.
“The US has also made [that] the Kurdish community must not be affected by unauthori… untoward incursion by Turkey or any others,” he said, while responding to questions by members of the British parliament. “It’s important that stability in northeast Syria should not be affected by the American decision.”
Burt also said that the US “has taken a serious appraisal of the impact of its troop withdrawal so it will not affect the global coalition against Daesh [Islamic State] and is in close contact with its neighbours,” but added, “We don’t know the precise details.”
On Tuesday, Labour MP Fabian Hamilton tweeted, “Today I called on the government to seek clarity on when US troops will be withdrawn, what the preconditions of withdrawal are, and how the Kurds will be protected throughout this process.”
The Kurdish people must be protected following the withdrawal of US troops from #Syria.— Fabian Hamilton (@FabianLeedsNE) January 22, 2019
Today I called on the government to seek clarity on when US troops will be withdrawn, what the preconditions of withdrawal are, and how the Kurds will be protected throughout this process. pic.twitter.com/AM52E0g9vN
Jeff Smith, Another Labour lawmaker, also asked Burt, given the sensitivity of the situation on the Syrian-Turkish border, what kind of steps could be taken to keep Turkey from attacking, and to instead “find a diplomatic solution that does not involve attacking Kurdish forces.”
Burt said that he was in “constant” contact with both Turkey and the US in regards to Syria.
“We engage regularly with the United States as they work through their process of withdrawal to make sure it's manageable and make sure everyone remains focused on continuing the global coalition against Daesh.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke on Monday with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and reiterated Washington’s insistence on protecting its allies in Syria as it withdraws forces from the nation.
The principal US ally in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria has been the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), led militarily by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
On Monday, UK’s Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said, in front of parliament, “I think our whole country owes a great debt of gratitude to SDF and many of those Kurdish forces that are part of the SDF.”
In other EU countries as well, lawmakers have pressured their governments to speak out against Turkish threats to attack Kurds in Syria. Last week, for example, the Dutch government accepted two parliamentary motions to continue to call on Turkey to refrain from attacking the Kurds.
Moreover, one of the motions specifically asks the Dutch government to acquire support from France and the UK to address threats by Ankara to mobilize across its southern border.
France, especially, has been vocal about the importance of protecting the SDF, and Syrian Kurds in general, from possible Turkish attacks.
“The Kurds have been the best partners of the coalition,” French Defense Minister Florence Parly said on Sunday. However, she added, that the US is conscious of the need to protect its Kurdish allies.
Editing by John J. Catherine