Turkish representatives in Washington to discuss complex northern Syrian theatre

Turkish representatives in Washington to discuss complex northern Syrian theatre

The first of three technical committee meetings between Turkey and the US begin today in Washington.

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Photo: Ibrahim Mase/AP

The first of three technical committee meetings between Turkey and the US begin today in Washington. Representatives will cover issues from human rights to diplomatic relations between the two countries but talks will be overshadowed by diverging interests in Syria.

Likely to top the agenda will be a $2.4 billion Russo-Turkish agreement for Moscow to supply Ankara with S-400 surface-to-air missiles. US and NATO officials have denounced this, warning the acquisition would harm Turkish-NATO “interoperability”.

In January, Turkish forces began an offensive in Syria’s Afrin region against Kurdish forces, who Ankara accuses of being “terrorists” threatening Turkey. The US continues to arm the Kurdish fighters in their campaign against ISIS forces. Complicating the chaotic situation is a pro-regime offensive pushing back against Turkish forces that started two weeks ago—Damascus accuses them of openly violating Syrian sovereignty.

US policymakers must determine whether they want to double down on their Kurdish ally and risk escalating tensions with Turkey and Russia or continue letting Russians and Turks maintain their current strategy. As the fight against ISIS in Syria nears its end, expect the US to keep increasing diplomatic pressure against Turkey and Russia but evade direct military intervention against Turkish and pro-government forces besieging Afrin.

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