Lavrov: US Syria Policies Full of Contradictions, Could 'Ignite' Whole Region

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Trump

While Washington saw the Kurds as valuable allies in the fight against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) extremists, Ankara considers any armed Kurdish factions in Syria to be linked to its own domestic militants, the Kurdistan Workers Party, which it has deemed a terrorist group.

Turkey has been poised to advance into northeast Syria since U.S. troops began vacating the area in an abrupt policy shift by U.S. President Donald Trump widely criticised in Washington as a betrayal of America's Kurdish militia allies.

Yet, despite the social media diplomacy, US military officials said they expect a Turkish incursion is still likely and confirmed that they have repositioned about 50 USA special forces members, who had been operating along the Turkey-Syria border, out of harm's way.

Erdogan has spoken of plans to build towns, villages, hospitals and schools but also says Turkey, which has already spent some $40 billion on the refugees, can not afford to do it alone.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK - listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the USA and the European Union - has been responsible for the deaths of some 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.

President Donald Trump meanwhile denied the Kurds had been abandoned by the US pullback, praising Turkey as a trade partner and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally in a softening of his tone hours after threatening Ankara's economy if it acted "off limits" in Syria.

Jonathan Schanzer, a Syria scholar at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, said even a limited Turkish incursion into northern Syria could quickly escalate.

It was not clear what damage was caused or whether there were casualties. Details of the strike, a joint operation by Turkey's intelligence service and the military, were hazy. "So, we've chose to start an operation against them", Cavusoglu said. Trump told Erdogan in a phone call on Sunday that dozens of American troops who'd been working closely with Kurdish forces in the fight against Islamic State would pull back, effectively clearing the way for a Turkish incursion.

Amid deepening humanitarian concerns, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged all parties in northeast Syria to exercise maximum restraint and protect civilians.

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Gharib Hessu, a member of the Kurdish Movement for a Democratic Society in North Syria, denied any links between terrorist acts in Turkey and Rojava. "The TSK will never tolerate the establishment of a terror corridor on our borders".

Turkey has said it intends to create a "safe zone" in order to return millions of refugees to Syrian soil, but the scheme has alarmed some Western allies as much as the risks posed by the military operation itself.

"The Turkish military, together with the Free Syrian Army, will cross the Turkish-Syrian border shortly", he said.

The first phase of the Turkish attack is expected to begin along a 120km stretch between the border towns of Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ain - the same area that USA forces evacuated on Donald Trump's orders on Monday. Artillery was also stationed in the area, and soldiers wandered around a nearby military camp.

Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said on the same day that the Syrian government will defend all Syrian areas and will not accept any form of occupation by foreign forces.

The comment appeared to be a response to Mr Trump's earlier threat to target the Turkish economy, reportedly an attempt by the president to placate domestic criticism, including from Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

"Threatening Turkey's economy is a diplomatic catastrophe", she told her party's lawmakers in Parliament.

"So many people conveniently forget that Turkey is a big trading partner of the United States, in fact they make the structural steel frame for our F-35 Fighter Jet", Trump said, ignoring the fact that Turkey has been removed from the F-35 program since July after receiving Russian S-400 air defense system. "They have been good to deal with".

In the call with reporters Monday, the senior official noted that the US had been successful for two years in dissuading Turkey from launching an attack on Kurdish forces in northern Syria, but that Turkey was now adamant about proceeding.

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