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Mon, 26 October 2020

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Former defence minister calls on PM to stand up to President Trump for ‘abandoning’ Kurdish allies in Syria

Former defence minister calls on PM to stand up to President Trump for ‘abandoning’ Kurdish allies in Syria
3 min read

Tobias Ellwood has urged the Prime Minister to stand up to Donald Trump over withdrawing US troops from the north eastern Syria and "abandoning" Kurdish allies.

The US president announced plans to remove American forces from the region, leaving Kurdish forces who were instrumental in the fight against Islamic State vulnerable to conflict with Turkey.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he wants to create a 30km “safe zone” and return nearly three million Syrian refugees into the Kurdish-held territory.

But Mr Ellwood, a former defence minister, condemned the US move saying it went against official and congressional advice, and would leave Kurdish-led forces, who made up the bulk of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, open to the "expected Turkish offensive". 

President Trump has threatened to “obliterate” the Turkish economy if it acts in a way he considers to be “off limits” in northern Syria. 

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Ellwood warned that lessons should be learned from previous interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, that “you don’t abandon the very people you step forward to help before the job is done.”

“The US is our most trusted and valued ally, we share the same vision and indeed help wanting to shape the world around us defend its international standards and values, it’s why we stepped forward in the first place to form the international coalition to defeat Daesh," he told MPs. 

“That bond that friendship that trust means we have a privileged relationship with the US which enables us to be honest and speak out if there are differences in opinion and today is one such case.”

He added: “These are the same Kurdish forces that worked with us to defeat Daesh, essentially they were our boots on the ground and now it seems we’re turning our backs on them...

“If this goes ahead this will be no orderly handover, the Kurds will fight to defend their land.”

Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry also condemned Mr Trump for “betraying” the sacrifice of Kurdish allies.

And Foreign Affairs Committee chair Tom Tugenhadt also backed calls from Mr Ellwood, tweeting: “Tobias Ellwood was right and on the nail.”

Responding in the Commons, Middle East Minister Andrew Murrison said he understood the US withdrawal to be “fairly small scale”.

“We are talking to all our interlocutors at the moment, this is very kinetic, very fast-changing and of course we need to ensure that so far as we can we influence our partners in the way he just described,” he said.

“The US withdrawal as I understand it will be fairly small scale, it will be a small number of troops in the immediate vicinity of the border.

“We do not support any incursion of Turkey into north west Syria."

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