Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Tal Abyad, in a picture taken from the Turkish side of the border where the Turkish flag is seen in Akcakale on Thursday, the second day of Turkey's military operation against Kurdish forces. Photo: AFP

US President Donald Trump suggested Thursday that Washington could mediate between Turkey and Kurdish groups after Ankara launched a military offensive against Kurds who until recently were backed by the United States.

“We have one of three choices: Send in thousands of troops and win Militarily, hit Turkey very hard Financially and with Sanctions, or mediate a deal between Turkey and the Kurds!” Trump tweeted.

This third option was the latest twist in the president’s changing stance regarding the fate of Kurdish militias that until recently were fighting alongside US troops in Syria.

Trump has ordered US troops to withdraw from key positions along Syria’s northern border, saying he does not want to stand in the way of a Turkish offensive against what Ankara considers to be a threat from the Kurds.

After coming under fierce criticism from his own party, Trump then said he intended to limit Turkey’s offensive with the threat of economic sanctions.

Meanwhile, the UN secretary-general on Thursday expressed “deep concern” and called for a “de-escalation” of the spiraling violence in Syria, a day after Turkey launched an offensive in Kurdish-controlled areas.

“I want to express my deep concern about the escalation of conflicts we are witnessing in eastern Syria,” Antonio Guterres told a press conference in Copenhagen.

“At the present moment what we must do is to make sure that we have a de-escalation and of course I’m worried,” Guterres said.

He said any solution to the conflict must “respect the sovereignty of the territory and the unity of Syria.”

His remarks came as the five European members of the UN Security Council – France, Germany, Britain, Belgium and Poland – called on Ankara to halt its “unilateral” military operation against Syrian Kurdish forces.

The Turkish military, supported by Syrian proxies, began its offensive in northeastern Syria on Wednesday, shortly after the US withdrew its troops from the area – a move that effectively saw America abandon its Kurdish allies in the fight against ISIS.

Turkey says its operation is aimed at pushing back Syrian Kurdish forces, which it considers “terrorists,” and establishing a “safe zone” for the return of Syrian refugees.

But the intervention has sparked international anger, raising fears of a new refugee crisis and concern that thousands of jihadists being held in Syrian Kurdish prisons could use the opportunity to escape.


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