NATO must stay united in the fight against ISIS, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warned on Thursday amid Turkey’s offensive against Kurdish-led forces in northern Syria.
“We have to remember that we need to continue to stand together in our common fight against a common enemy, which is ISIS,” he said during a visit to Athens. “ISIS are still present on the ground, in Iraq, Syria … in Afghanistan,” he added. “We have made enormous progress in the fight against ISIS … we must make sure that we preserve those gains.”
The Turkish military, supported by Syrian proxies, launched the offensive against areas controlled by Kurdish-led authorities in northeastern Syria on Wednesday, despite widespread international warnings.
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NATO member Turkey says its operation is aimed at pushing back Syrian Kurdish-led forces, which it considers “terrorists”, and establishing a “safe zone” to help repatriate Syrian refugees.
Stoltenberg earlier this week urged Turkey to show “restraint” in its operation against Kurdish-led forces in Syria, warning that the fight against ISIS should not be put at risk.
On Thursday he added that the operation should also avoid causing “more human suffering.” After Turkey launched the assault, Stoltenberg acknowledged that Ankara had “legitimate security concerns” but called for a measured response. The offensive has sparked international anger, raising fears of a new refugee crisis in northern Syria and concern that thousands of fighters being held in Syrian Kurdish prisons could use the opportunity to escape.