Pentagon Chief Warns Turkey Against ‘Unilateral Action’ in Syria

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan previously notified the United States about Turkey’s intention to launch an operation in Syria east of the Euphrates River, currently controlled by self-defence forces consisting mainly of Kurdish-led militants.

US Defence Secretary Mark Esper told reporters on Tuesday that any unilateral Turkish operations in northern Syria would be unacceptable and averted by Washington.

“What we’re going to do is prevent unilateral incursions that would upset, again, these mutual interests … the United States, Turkey and the SDF share with regard to northern Syria”, Esper said.

On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Ankara would launch an operation in Syria east of the Euphrates River. The president added that the United States and Russia were notified of Turkey’s intentions. Erdogan, however, did not elaborate on the details of the operation or its start date.

The area to the east of the Euphrates is presently under the control of the self-defence forces which are comprised primarily of Kurdish-led militants, including US-backed YPG which Ankara considers a terrorist organisation.

In late July, Turkey and Washington held talks on the establishment of a safe zone in northern Syria. Turkey stated it was interested in a secure area that would be controlled by Turkey in coordination with the United States and completely cleared of Kurdish militias.

In December Turkey announced its intention to launch an offensive against the Kurdish militia in the then Kurdish-controlled Syrian city of Manbij. However, following a phone conversation with Donald Trump, Ankara announced it would postpone the operation. Trump, in turn, announced the withdrawal of US troops from Syria following that call.