Turkey launches ground forces in Syria as civilian deaths reported

Read Time7 Minutes, 50 Seconds
  1. ITV Report
  2. 9 October 2019 at 10:07pm

Donald Trump did not give Turkey “the green light” to launch an invasion of northern Syria, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said.

Mr Pompeo insisted Turkey had “a legitimate security concern” about the region after it launched airstrikes and subsequently put ground forces into the area.

In an interview with PBS in America, Mr Pompeo said: “They have a terrorist threat to their south.

“We’ve been working to make sure that we did what we could do to prevent that terror threat from striking the people in Turkey, while trying to achieve what is in America’s best interest: the threat from radical Islamic terrorism emanating from Syria.”

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.@JudyWoodruff: &quot;Does the U.S. take responsibility for whatever the outcome is [in northern Syria], because the U.S. has given Turkey a green light?&quot;

Sec. of State Pompeo: &quot;Yeah, well that's just false. The United States didn't give Turkey a green light.&quot; pic.twitter.com/XTFli37OIG

&mdash; PBS NewsHour (@NewsHour) October 9, 2019

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When asked whether the US president’s decision to pull American troops from the area had given the green light to Turkey’s leader Recep Erdogan to launch an attack, Mr Pompeo replied: “Yeah, well that’s just false.

“The United States didn’t give Turkey a green light.”

Turkey says its ground forces have crossed the border into north-east Syria, hours after it began a military operation against Kurdish fighters on Wednesday.

Turkish troops, joined by allied Syrian opposition forces, moved into Syria, the country’s Defense Ministry said, after forces carried out airstrikes and artillery shelling in Syria’s northern border earlier on Wednesday.

There are reports eight civilians and seven fighters from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been killed following the military invasion, according to a Syrian war monitor.

A UN Security Council will hold a closed meeting on Thursday on Turkey’s military action in northeast Syria.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria risks “destabilising” the region.

In a statement, Mr Raab said he had “serious concerns” about Turkey’s military action.

He said: “This risks destabilising the region, exacerbating humanitarian suffering, and undermining the progress made against Daesh which should be our collective focus.

“Turkey has shown considerable generosity in hosting so many Syrian refugees.

“But we will not support plans for returns until the conditions are in place for a voluntary and safe return home.”

Boris Johnson and President Donald Trump also voiced their “serious concern” regarding the actions of Turkey in a phone call between the Prime Minister and US President on Wednesday.

Dominic Raab said the offensive risks ‘destabilising’ the region. Credit: PA

While the Arab League says foreign ministers from around the region will also meet to discuss Turkey’s military operation in Cairo on Saturday.

President Trump says the U.S. does not endorse Turkey’s assault on northern Syria and has made it clear to Ankara that its incursion against Kurdish fighters who helped the U.S. battle the Islamic State is a “bad idea.”

In a statement on Wednesday, Mr Trump said no American soldiers are in the area being invaded and says he does not want the U.S. to fight “these endless, senseless wars.”

The president says he will hold Turkey to its commitment to protect civilians and religious minorities, including Christians, and ensure the invasion does not create a humanitarian crisis.

Turkey began a military operation against Kurdish fighters. Credit: AP

He also says Turkey must make sure that IS fighters held captive in Syria remain detained.

Turkey aims to create a so-called “safe zone” that would be cleared of Kurdish fighters that Ankara considers to be terrorists.

Egypt has condemned “in the strongest words” Turkey’s military operation into northern Syria and has called it an “aggression” against Syria’s sovereignty.

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry in a statement on Wednesday called for the U.N. Security Council to halt “any attempts to occupy Syrian territories or change the demographics in northern Syria.”

While the European’s Union foreign policy chief is calling on Turkey to cease its military action in northeast Syria.

Federica Mogherini said in a written statement said the offensive “will further undermine the stability of the whole region.”

The EU says Turkey’s “unilateral action” threatens the progress of the U.S.-led coalition to defeat the Islamic State extremist group.

A Turkish army officer guides a comrade driving a tank to its new position on the Turkish side of the border between Syria. Credit: AP

Turkish President Erdogan announced his country had begun an incursion into Syria.

On Twitter, President Erdogan said: “Our goal is to eliminate the terrorist corridor to be formed on our southern border to bring peace and security to the region.”

Turkey has been massing troops for days in preparation for an attack against Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria that Ankara considers a terrorist organisation.

For months Turkey has threatened to launch a military operation to drive away Syrian Kurdish fighters from a border region east of the Euphrates River.

Earlier, Turkish television reports said Turkish jets were carrying out airstrikes on Syrian Kurdish positions in Tal Abyad and showed smoke billowing from the targeted areas.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said ambassadors of the United Nations Security Council’s five permanent members, including US ambassador David Satterfield, were being briefed on the operation.

Local residents applaud as a convoy of Turkish forces vehicles arrive in Turkey on Tuesday. Credit: AP
  • How has the world reacted to the operation?

The secretary-general of NATO is urging Turkey not to “further destabilize the region” through its military action in northern Syria.

Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference in Rome that Turkey, a NATO ally, “has legitimate security concerns,” having suffered “horrendous terrorist attacks” and hosting thousands of refugees.

He said NATO has been informed about Turkey’s ongoing operation in northern Syria. And he added “it is important to avoid actions that may further destabilize the region, escalate tensions and cause more human suffering.”

Mr Stoltenberg will discuss the military action with Turkey’s leader on Friday in Istanbul.

  • Syrians in the north-eastern border town of Ras al-Ayn are protesting against Turkey’s military offensive

Speaking to EU lawmakers on Wednesday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “I call on Turkey as well as on the other actors to act with restraint and to stop operations already, as we are speaking, underway.”

While acknowledging that Turkey has security concerns on its border with Syria, Mr Juncker says that “if the Turkish plan involves the creation of a so-called safe zone, don’t expect the European Union to pay for any of it.”

Germany’s foreign minister is condemning Turkey’s offensive and called on Ankara to end the military action, saying it threatened “a further humanitarian catastrophe and further displacement of persons.”

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement Wednesday that “we condemn the Turkish offensive in the northeast of Syria in the strongest possible terms.”

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has confirmed Turkey has begun a military operation into Syria. Credit: AP
  • What has US President Donald Trump said?

The move into Syria comes just days after Donald Trump declared US troops would withdraw from the “endless war” in the Middle East.

Acknowledging that “the Kurds fought with us” against so-called Islamic State, Mr Trump claimed they “were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so”.

Syrian Kurdish fighters, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), called the US’s move a “stab in the back” which risked gains made in the fight against the so-called Islamic State group.

On Tuesday, wounded Kurdish fighters held portraits of comrades who were killed while fighting against Islamic State militants. Credit: AP

They continued they would “not hesitate for a moment in defending our people” against Turkish troops, adding that it has lost 11,000 fighters in the war against IS in Syria.

A Turkish attack would lead to a resurgence of so-called Islamic State it said.

Sleeper cells of the terror group are already plotting to break free some 12,000 militants detained by Syrian Kurdish fighters in north-eastern Syria in a “threat to local and international security”.

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….the captured ISIS fighters and families. The U.S. has done far more than anyone could have ever expected, including the capture of 100% of the ISIS Caliphate. It is time now for others in the region, some of great wealth, to protect their own territory. THE USA IS GREAT!

&mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2019

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