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Published On: Tue, Feb 6th, 2018

Events linked to Turkey’s invasion of Afrin are “gruesome”: NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg

nsnbc : Speaking at the annual conference of the Norwegian Atlantic Committee in Leagankollen on Monday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said NATO is not considering the actions of Turkey in Afrin to be within the organization’s portfolio and pushed for those who are in Syria, like the United States and Turkey, to work towards a “political solution.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Norwegian PM Erna Solberg speak at a press conference on Monday. Photo: Torbjorn Kjosvold | Norwegian Armed Forces

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Norwegian PM Erna Solberg speak at a press conference on Monday. Photo: Torbjorn Kjosvold | Norwegian Armed Forces

Stoltenberg’s statement came during a joint press conference with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg. NATO’s Secretary-General described the events that have unfolded after Turkey crossed the border into northern Syria and the predominantly Syrian – Kurdish Afrin as “gruesome,” a strong word among allies.

However, because NATO is not “on the ground,” Stoltenber expressed that Ankara should speak with countries which are also “on the ground, especially the USA.” NATO is a member of the US-led Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS that operates in Syria. They have supported the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), whose backbone has been the Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG), he noted.

The YPG controls three cantons in Syria, including Afrin. US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said they support their strategic NATO ally Turkey “100 percent” when projectiles are fired across border and into Turkey. However, the YPG and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have repeatedly stressed that they don’t threaten Turkey’s security now and have no intention to do that later.

Turkey, for is part, considers the YPG and its all-female branch, the YPJ, as terrorist organizations on par and allied with Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK).  Turkey’s has claimed its assault on Afrin is to fight “terrorism” and protect its borders; however, Operation Olive Branch has resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties, which Turkey denies having targeted. Moreover, Turkey is cooperating with units of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and other Islamist militia that have repeatedly been linked to Al-Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra and other internationally outlawed Islamist terrorist organizations.

Stoltenberg echoed the need for a “political solution” in Syria. “I have been in contact with Turkish authorities and [Turkish Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, and with the Americans,” Stoltenberg said, “but the most important thing is contact between those on the ground in Syria, to avoid a further escalation of a difficult situation.”

CH/L – nsnbc 06.02.2018

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