Deescalation of military threats to North and East Syria, as well as economic stabilization of the region, were topics discussed with Ethan Goldrich, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs at the US Department of State, visited with top officials in the autonomous region of North and East Syria. 

Goldrich met with General Mazlum Abdi Kobani of the Syrian Democratic Forces, Executive President Elham Ahmed of the Syrian Democratic Council. In a sign that the State Department has its eye on the economic stabilization of the region, rather than just military affairs, Goldrich also met with officials of the Ministry of Agriculture and Economy, the Ministry of the Interior, and the Ministry of Finance, as well as the Raqqa Civil Council and other officials of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES).

The officials discussed human rights violations that are impacting humanitarian aid and other humanitarian issues. They discussed the ways that Turkish militarism and occupation impacts the region, such as the Turkish drone attacks, as well as the draining of the Euphrates River water levels, which has severely impacted agriculture in the region. They also discussed the stability of areas recently liberated from ISIS and repatriation efforts underway for ISIS detainees.

Turkish drone attacks have accelerated in recent months, and there are signs that the Turkish military may be massing at the Turkey-Syria border, leading to widespread speculation on whether Turkey will engage in another military incursion into the region. The Turkish occupation of the large agricultural region of Afrin, Syria, has been ongoing since early 2018. Turkey seized more Syrian territory following the widely-criticized incursions into Sere Kaniye (Ras al-Ain) and Tel Abyad (Gire Spi) in October 2019.

Goldrich had met with Ahmed in September during her official visit to Washington two weeks after his appointment as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs. Aimee Cutrona, who had held the position since the start of the current US presidential administration of Joe Biden, had recently moved to another position within the State Department. Goldrich’s visit this past week was his first official visit to North and East Syria.