Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s chief aide Ilnur Cevik has signaled that the Turkish army may hit U.S. forces patrolling the Turkish border, raising the specter of a possible confrontation between the two NATO allies.
Mr. Cevik’s controversial statement came as he was discussing increased U.S. presence on the Turkish-Syrian border. He told a Turkish radio program on Tuesday that it “meant nothing” that U.S. troops were patrolling areas held by Syrian Kurdish militants.
“Look what happened to Daesh,” Mr. Cevik said, using the Arabic acronym of the Islamic State. “We suddenly went there in the dead of night and found ourselves in al-Bab. The same thing is possible for northern Syria too. If they go too far, we won’t be considering the fact that there are armored American vehicles… Perhaps you may see that several rockets also accidentally hit them.”
Mr. Cevik’s remarks even shocked the host of the program who said his remarks were “harsh.”
“What would you do if [Americans] act like this,” Mr. Cevik responded.
Last week, both Pentagon and the State Department expressed deep concern over Turkish airstrikes targeting Syrian Kurdish YPG militias, saying that the air campaign put U.S. troops on the ground at risk. Since then, the U.S. dispatched troops and armored vehicles to patrol Turkish-Syrian border due to possible Turkish incursion against the Syrian Kurdish militants, who are fighting against ISIS alongside the U.S.
Mr. Erdogan is hopeful that U.S. President Donald J. Trump will put an end to these actions in northern Syria that are “taken by Obama administration holdovers.”
The Turkish president told reporters on Tuesday that he attaches importance to his meeting with Mr. Trump and that he will discuss U.S. military movements in northern Syria with him. “We will convey [these concerns] to [Mr. Trump] with the pictures. We will tell him how much this issue disturbs us. If it continues like this, it will be impossible to be in harmony with the U.S.,” Mr. Erdogan said.
He said Turkey does not find it appropriate for the U.S. to act together with “terrorist groups that are our enemies.”
“I believe Mr. Trump will be positive to our views,” Mr. Erdogan added.
On Wednesday, Mr. Erdogan was in Russian resort town of Sochi and declared that normalization process with Russia was over. “We are now going beyond normalization,” Mr. Erdogan said, announcing the end of a chapter in which Russia and Turkey were at each other’s throats.
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