Tobias Ellwood MP asked an urgent question to Rt Hon Dr Andrew Murrison MP, Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) on the withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria.
On Sunday, the White House announced that it would remove United States forces from northern Syria in advance of a Turkish plan to launch an offensive against Kurdish forces and establish a 'safe zone' along the Turkish/Syrian border. The Kurdish militia have been considered a key US ally in the fight against Daesh, but Turkey views them as an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party, who fought for Kurdish autonomy in the country. Tobias Ellwood MP asked the Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) for a statement on the withdrawal of US troops from the region.
Dr Andrew Murrison MP said that, although US military action was a matter for the US Government, ministers had been involved in discussions with US officials. He underscored that Turkish military action could have stark consequences for the region.
The Minister told MPs:
"We are consulting with the US on the response to proposed Turkish military action in north-east Syria. The Foreign and Defence Secretaries both spoke to their US counterparts yesterday. […] The US Department of Defence said in a statement yesterday that the US does not endorse a Turkish operation in north-east Syria. We have been consistently clear with Turkey that unilateral military action must be avoided as it would destabilise the region and threaten efforts to secure the lasting defeat of Daesh."
Responding to the Minister, Tobias Ellwood MP noted the importance of the UK's relationship with the US, but emphasised the dire consequences the US's decision to withdraw troops from northern Syria could have. In particular, he talked about conflict that is likely to occur between Kurdish and Turkish forces as a result of Turkey's plans to place around 3 million refugees in the territory they intend to claim.
The MP said:
"The President’s decision to remove US troops from northern Syria goes against official and congressional advice and will leave the Syrian democratic forces exposed to Turkish offensive to establish a 30km safe zone in northern Syria. These are the same Kurdish forces who worked with us to defeat Daesh – essentially, they were our boots on the ground. And now it seems we’re turning our backs on them. […] If anything is to be learnt from previous interventions, you don’t abandon the very people you stepped forward to help before the job is done."
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