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Turkey’s actions in Syria undermine campaign to defeat ISIL, endangers civilians, Biden says

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US President Joe Biden accused Turkey of undermining the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and endangering civilians through its actions in northern Syria, in a letter he sent to the speaker of the US House of Representatives.

Biden sent the letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to notify her of his intention to extend a national emergency in relation to Syria.

Syria’s war has killed nearly half a million people and forced around half of the country’s pre-war population from their homes.

“The situation in and in relation to Syria, and in particular the actions by the Government of Turkey to conduct a military offensive into northeast Syria, undermines the campaign to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, endangers civilians, and further threatens to undermine the peace, security, and stability in the region, and continues to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States,” Biden said in his letter.

Turkey has carried out three cross-border operations in Syria against ISIL as well as US-backed Kurdish militia and has frequently used factions of armed Syrian fighters in addition to its own forces.

Some of these fighters have been accused by human rights groups and the United Nations of indiscriminately attacking civilians and carrying out kidnappings and looting. The United Nations had asked Ankara to rein in these Syrian rebels, while Turkey rejected the allegations, calling them “baseless.”

“Therefore, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13894 with respect to the situation in and in relation to Syria,” Biden said in his letter.

Turkey has also been accused of arming terrorist groups to fight back against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which it considers an affiliate of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.

In August Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made remarks hinting at a possible cross-border operation to remove YPG militants from the country’s border with Syria.

Erdoğan had for several months threatened to launch an operation against the YPG.

Relations between the US and Turkey, two NATO allies, took a nosedive after Turkey’s purchase of a Russian S-400 missile defense system the US believes can be used to spy on Western defenses. Washington in 2020 imposed sanctions on Turkey’s military procurement agency for the purchase. It also expelled Turkey from the F-35 program under which Western allies produce the next-generation fighter jet’s parts and secure its early purchasing rights.

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