Erdogan lashes out at NATO over US-backed Syria 'terror army'

Erdogan lashes out at NATO over US-backed Syria 'terror army'
Turkey's President Erdogan has called on NATO to take a stand against the US over the creation of a border force in northern Syria comprised of Kurdish forces.
2 min read
17 January, 2018
A US-backed border force in Syria involving a Kurdish militia has angered Erdogan [Getty]
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has lashed out at NATO over the creation of a new US-backed 30,000-strong border security force in northern Syria.

Addressing his ruling party's deputies on Tuesday, Erdogan called on NATO to fulfil its responsibilities to Turkey, a 65-year member of the alliance, and take a stand against the US, a fellow ally.

"Hey NATO! You are obliged to take a stance against those who harass and violate the borders of your members," Erdogan said.

Turkey's leader reacted angrily this week after the US revealed it was working to create a 30,000-strong border security force in northern Syria led by the Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The SDF is affiliated with the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) waging an insurgency in southern Turkey.

"America has acknowledged it is in the process of creating a terror army on our border. What we have to do is nip this terror army in the bud," Erdogan said in a televised speech on Monday.

Late on Tuesday, NATO responded to Turkey's concerns, saying it was a "highly valued ally" and the alliance was committed to Turkey's defence. 

"We understand Turkey's concerns regarding the matter," NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg told Erdogan in a phone call, reported Turkey's Anadolu Agency.

Stoltenberg added that NATO was not consulted on the matter of creating the army, and that it was an issue for the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State militants on the ground in Syria, which includes dozens of countries.

The US has relied on the YPG as the most effective fighting force against IS in Syria. Meanwhile on Tuesday, Turkish forces attacked the Kurdish-held town of Afrin in northern Syria to clear it of "terrorists". Ankara's relations with Washington have been strained over the opposing alliances.

The US-trained Border Security Force (BSF), to be established over several years, would be responsible for preventing a resurgence of IS in areas where the extremist militants had been cleared by the SDF.