US increases criticism of Turkey’s attack on Syrian Kurds
WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) – The US increased its criticism of Turkey’s offensive against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the Afrin area as Ankara’s assault entered its fourth day on Tuesday.
US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, in Indonesia for the start of a tour of Asia, told reporters that Turkey’s attack “disrupts what was a relatively stable area of Syria.”
“It distracts from the international efforts to ensure the defeat of ISIS and al-Qaeda,” he continued.
“We urge Turkey to exercise restraint in its military actions” and its rhetoric and ensure “its operations are limited in scope and duration,” Mattis affirmed.
In Washington, State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert called on Turkey to “de-escalate the situation.”
“We’re calling for a decrease in violence, and that’s something that is extremely important to us,” she said.
She explained that Turkey’s assault of Afrin “is at the top of [Secretary Rex Tillerson’s] radar right now, in addition to many other people here at the State Department.”
Asked about Turkey’s claim that it was also fighting the Islamic State (IS) in the Afrin area, Nauert responded, “We do not see [IS] in that area.”
The Spokesperson had harsh words for Moscow, both as regards Turkey’s attack on Afrin and the situation in Syria more generally.
Responding to a question from Kurdistan 24 about Russia’s claim that the US was responsible for the Turkish assault because of US arms supplies to the YPG, Nauert called it “propaganda.”
“I think [the Russians] would like to drive a wedge between two NATO allies,” the United States and Turkey, she said. But “they’re not going to succeed in that.”
“And they would probably like us to leave [Syria] altogether,” she added.
Russia will host a conference on Syria in the Black Sea resort of Sochi at the end of the month. The YPG has announced that it will not attend because of what it called “Russian collusion” in the Turkish attack on Afrin.
Nauert declined to say if the US would attend the Sochi meeting, but she affirmed that the US remained committed to the UN-sponsored Geneva negotiations, which she called the “gold standard.”
The US Secretary of State is currently in Paris to attend an international conference on countering the use of chemical weapons. Speaking there, Tillerson held Moscow responsible for Syria’s apparent use of chlorine gas on Monday in a Damascus suburb.
Nauert expanded on Tillerson’s criticism, explaining that in 2013, Russia undertook to ensure that Syria would destroy its entire chemical weapons stockpile.
However, “we’ve seen at least four chemical attacks” since then, she said.
Nauert also charged that Russia had blocked UN attempts to investigate three other alleged instances of the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons.
Editing by Nadia Riva