US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke by phone with his Turkish counterpart Yasar Guler on Thursday night and called for a “de-escalation in northern Syria”, a statement said.
The United States announced on Thursday that it had shot down a Turkish drone in Syria after determining it posed a potential threat to American forces, which could spark new tensions between the two NATO allies.
The episode comes as Turkey’s military carries out strikes against Kurdish targets in Syria, following Sunday’s suicide attack in Ankara, which was claimed by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group designated as a “terrorist” group by the Turkish government. government and its western allies.
US forces saw drones launch strikes in northeastern Syria on Thursday morning, some near Hasakah, about a kilometer from a position where US troops were stationed, Pentagon spokesman Wing Commander Pat Ryder told reporters.
A few hours later, a Turkish UAV returned to the zone, moving in the direction of US forces.
“American commanders judged this drone, which was (…) less than 500 meters from American forces, to be a potential threat and American F-16 fighters shot it down in self-defense,” the wing chief said.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke by phone with his Turkish counterpart Yasar Guler on Thursday night and called for a “de-escalation in northern Syria”, according to a press release issued by his services.
In particular, he stressed the “importance of strict adherence to existing communication protocols through normal army-to-army channels,” according to the text.
In a press release released by the Turkish Ministry of Defense, which does not explicitly refer to the incident, it is noted that the two officials referred to “the latest developments in Syria” and their “close coordination in the region”, with the Turkish minister assuring that Ankara is “ready for a joint fight with the US against Daesh” (Arabic acronym for the jihadist organization Islamic State).
The US maintains about 900 troops in Syria as part of operations with its allies against IS and frequently announces it is launching strikes against jihadists.
Turkey again struck Kurdish positions last night, including “PKK/YPG weapons and ammunition depots”, in northern Syria, according to Turkish media.
The YPG (People’s Protection Units) is characterized by Ankara as the Syrian arm of the PKK. Members of this organization have been spearheading the battle of the Western coalition in operations against IS jihadists.
In the past, Turkey’s armed forces have shot down Syrian and Russian aircraft. While the US has recently repeatedly criticized Russian forces for allegedly “harassing” its aircraft over Syria.
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