WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is not discussing a Turkish offensive in northeast Syria with Turkey and believes no such operation is needed to address Ankara’s security concerns, a U.S. official told Reuters on Wednesday, dismissing media reports to the contrary.
A Turkish defence official was cited by Turkish state media on Tuesday as saying Ankara was discussing with the United States and Russia a potential offensive in a region of northeast Syria controlled by Kurdish-led fighters.
“The U.S. is not discussing a Turkish offensive into northeast Syria with Turkey,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Turkey wants to set up a safe zone in the border area east of the Euphrates River after the majority of U.S. troops pull out of the country.
The U.S. military has been supporting Kurdish-led forces there who are fighting Islamic State. Turkey, however, views the Kurdish YPG fighters who are the backbone of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, as terrorists and has threatened to launch operations against them.
“We have had repeated discussions on a security mechanism or ‘safe zone’ in northeast Syria that would address Turkey’s security concerns,” the official said.
“The details of the security mechanism are being discussed and developed, but from the U.S. perspective would not require a Turkish offensive.”
The U.S.-backing of the SDF is only one of the major flashpoints in the U.S.-Turkey relationship.
Turkey, a NATO ally, is also headed toward a showdown with the United States over its plans to buy advanced Russian air defences. Ankara says the S-400 systems will be delivered in July and installed in October.
The United States has said that doing so will jeopardise Turkey’s procurement of Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jets and other defence industry deals, including a potential deal on Raytheon Co Patriot defence systems.
Turkey could also face U.S. sanctions under a U.S. law known as Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Peter Cooney