A “joint mechanism” to improve US-Turkey relations will be created, according to statements publicized following US President Joe Biden’s meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the G20 summit this past weekend. Biden and Erdogan reportedly discussed “issues related to Syria,” as well as other salient issues. What the two did not agree on, however, was any sort of shared approach to North and East Syria.
The White House release on the meeting stated that “the leaders discussed the political process in Syria.” The statement also notes that Biden “emphasized the importance of strong democratic institutions, respect for human rights, and the rule of law for peace and prosperity.”
A Turkish state propaganda organ, The Daily Sabah, reported that Erdogan indicated that Biden “does not have a negative stance” on discussing Turkey’s supposed concerns about terrorism in North and East Syria. This view from Erdogan and Turkish state media has not been confirmed by US sources, and may be a misrepresentation of generalized comments about “terrorism in Syria.”
“Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces are our partners in the fight against ISIS in Syria. We take that partnership seriously,” said the Pentagon spokesperson in a briefing on Monday. “We continue to work with them, specifically and solely on the ISIS threat in Syria. And it’s our expectation that that kind of cooperation and those operations will continue.”
“As for what the Turks might or might not do, I would suggest you talk to the folks in Ankara about that,” continued the spokesperson.
Turkey has made repeated claims that it has “legitimate concerns” about terrorism coming from North and East Syria, despite the fact that there have not been any confirmed reports of cross-border attacks against Turkey from the region.
The G20 sidelines talk was supposed to occur during the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, but Erdogan unexpectedly skipped the climate summit. He reportedly declined to attend the widely-anticipated event because of a disagreement with the British government about the provisions for his security detail and safety arrangements.
“President Biden did not give a green light to a Turkish military operation in northern Syria,” said James Jeffrey, who was the US Special Envoy for Syria Engagement until late 2020. Speaking in an interview with Al-Hurra TV, Jeffrey stressed that there is continuous cooperation between the US military and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in North and East Syria. This cooperation is ongoing and acts to prevent Turkish military attacks.
This view was corroborated by former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Joel Rayburn, whose legacy has included the implementation of the Caesar Act sanctions on Syria. Rayburn made comments clarifying that the United States is not likely to concede any ground in North and East Syria.
“There will be no large-scale Turkish attack on the Syrian Democratic Forces-held areas, as Washington is keen to avoid [in] the region further security collapse, while working to preclude any armed military clashes between the Turkish and American armies on Syrian territory,” said Joel Rayburn, in an exclusive statement made to North Press Agency.
“The American presence in Syria serves the American national security, and therefore most American lawmakers agree to continue maintaining it,” stated Rayburn.
US State Department spokesperson Ned Price made comments that illustrated the unchanging nature of the US stance in North and East Syria.
“It is important for all parties to respect the truce in Syria in order to maintain stability… Work must be done to achieve a political solution for the crisis in the country,” said Price, in a State Department briefing. These comments reflect the official tone that the State Department has been taking toward Syria for several months.