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US condemns attack on Turkish forces in northern Syria

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The United States has condemned a recent rocket attack blamed on the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria, which claimed the lives of two Turkish police officers.

“…what I will say is that we condemn the cross-border attack against our NATO ally, Turkey. We express our condolences to the families of the Turkish national police officers who were killed in Syria. We underscore the importance of maintaining ceasefire lines and halting cross-border attacks. It is crucial for all sides to maintain and to respect ceasefire zones, to enhance stability in Syria, and to work towards a political solution to the conflict,” said US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said at a press briefing on Tuesday.

The Turkish Interior Ministry announced on Sunday that two Turkish special operations police officers were killed and two others wounded in a rocket attack carried out by the YPG in northern Syria.

The ministry said the YPG militants used a rocket to target an armored vehicle carrying the police officers near the town of Azaz.

To a question asking about Turkey’s reported plans to purchase new F-16s from the US, Price said it is department policy that “we don’t publicly confirm or comment on proposed defense sales or transfers until they have been formally notified to Congress.”

Turkey’s presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın said in an interview with the Milliyet newspaper that Turkey can have its F-16 fighter jets modernized or buy new F-16s instead of the $1.4 billion Ankara paid for the F-35 program from the US, or look for alternatives in the world market.

Ankara had ordered more than 100 F-35 fighter jets made by Lockheed Martin but was removed from the program in 2019 after it acquired a Russian S-400 missile defense system.

When asked about recent remarks from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who signaled that Turkey was prepared to launch a new offensive against US-backed Kurdish forces in northern Syria following attacks blamed on the YPG, Price said Turkey and the US share an interest in sustainably ending the conflict in Syria and that the US will continue to consult with Ankara on Syria policy, together with Syria’s other neighbors and the broader set of US partners in the region, as they seek areas for cooperation.

“We have no patience left with some areas that are a source of terrorist attacks aimed at our country from Syria,” Erdoğan said on Monday after chairing a cabinet meeting.

“We are determined to eliminate the threats emanating from Syria,” he said in televised comments. “We will take the necessary steps in Syria as soon as possible.”

Turkey and its proxies have seized control of territory inside Syria over several military operations launched since 2016 against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group and the Kurdish YPG militia.

Ankara views the YPG as the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging a deadly war against the Turkish state that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

But Washington partnered with the YPG to fight ISIL in Syria, brushing off angry criticism from Turkey.

The YPG remains a sore point in Erdoğan’s uneasy relations with US President Joe Biden.

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