WASHINGTON ― In a rare joint statement, top foreign affairs lawmakers from the United States and multiple European allies on Monday condemned both President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw American military forces from Syria and the Turkish invasion that followed.
The signers, who said they “deeply regret” the moves, included U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y.; the European Parliament’s David McAllister, the German Bundestag’s Norbert Rottgen, the French National Assembly’s Marielle de Sarnez and the UK House of Commons’ Tom Tugendhat. They “consider the abandonment of the Syrian Kurds to be wrong” and “jointly condemn in the strongest terms the Turkish military offensive in northeastern Syria.”
“We deeply regret the decision of the President of United States to withdraw American troops from northeastern Syria which marks another landmark in the change of American foreign policy in the Near and Middle East,” the statement reads.
U.S. President Donald Trump two weeks ago abruptly decided to pull U.S. troops out of border areas, abandoning their allied Kurdish-backed fighters ahead of Turkey’s invasion. After the assault began Oct. 9, Trump ordered a general withdrawal from Syria.
Criticism of Trump’s decision has been widespread among U.S. lawmakers in recent days, but the new statement marks a strong expression of transatlantic unity. The statement also called on the European Union and its member states to “take responsibility and engage in the conflict resolution. We are in need of immediate and sustained joint action.”
On Monday, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said U.S. troops will stay in eastern Syria to protect Kurdish-held oil fields for at least the coming weeks and he was discussing options to keep them there. Trump has been accused at home and abroad for betraying the Kurds and weakening the coalition fighting the Islamic State group.
In recent days, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-N.Y., led a congressional delegation to Jordan where they discussed Syria with members of the country’s royal family. The delegation included Engel, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson and Rep. Mac Thornberry, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee.
Separately, the joint, trans-Atlantic statement predicted that the, “turmoil Turkish offensive may contribute to a resurgence of Islamic terrorism and undermines years of effort and investment to bring stability and peace in this part of the world. Therefore, we hope the United States will take up its responsibility in Syria again.”
“Equally we call upon the European Union and its member states to take responsibility and engage in the conflict resolution. We are in need of immediate and sustained joint action. There is only one path to follow: a firm and resolute attitude.
“This horrible war touches and affects the peoples of our countries in such an enormous way. For that reason, we, as members of our parliaments, feel compelled to making our common position clear. We unite across parties and nationalities to demonstrate our commitment to our common values, responsibility and interests.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, amid concerns and criticism from NATO allies over for the military operation denied any territorial ambition and called the accusation an “insult” to him. Ankara deems the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, a "terrorist" offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which has been waging a rebellion inside Turkey since 1984.
However, the transatlantic group of lawmakers, called Turkey’s incursion into Syria, “a military aggression and a violation of international law. The Turkish offensive is causing suffering for the local people who are forced to flee and a further instability in Syria and the neighboring region.”
Joe Gould is the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He served previously as Congress reporter.