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Talks after US fighter jet shoots down armed Turkish drone in Syria

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Talks after US fighter jet shoots down armed Turkish drone in Syria

  • Published12 hours ago

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File photo of a US-made F-16 fighter jet plane
Image caption,File photo of a US-made F-16 fighter jet plane

By Thomas Mackintosh

BBC News

The top US and Turkish diplomats have spoken by phone after US forces in Syria shot down an armed Turkish drone.

Washington said the drone came too close to its ground forces in Syria, but Ankara merely said it was lost during operations.

During the call between the Nato allies, Hakan Fidan told the US Turkey would keep targeting Kurdish groups.

The US works with Kurdish YPG forces in Syria, but Turkey views them as separatists and terrorists.

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Mr Fidan told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that Turkey’s “counter-terrorism operations in Iraq and Syria will continue with determination”.

Meanwhile a US State Department spokesperson said Mr Blinken highlighted the need for Washington and Ankara to “coordinate and deconflict” their activities.

On Thursday US military officials said a US F-16 fighter jet shot down the armed Turkish drone which was operating near American troops in Syria after giving several warnings.

Pentagon spokesperson Brig Gen Patrick Ryder told reporters that American forces had observed several drones carrying out airstrikes near Al Hasakah in north-eastern Syria at 07:30 local time (04:30 GMT).

Some of the strikes were approximately 1km away from US troops, prompting them to take shelter in bunkers, Ryder said.

Four hours later, the F-16 downed the drone after commanders assessed there was a potential threat, he said.

“It’s regrettable when you have two NATO allies and there’s an incident like this,” he told reporters.

It marked the first such incident between the two Nato allies.

There are about 900 US troops operating in Syria as a part of the mission against the Islamic State jihadist group (IS).

Turkey has been launching air strikes against Kurdish groups in Syria and Iraq after a suicide blast hit its interior ministry in Ankara.

The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) said the interior ministry bombing had been carried out by a group linked to them.

The PKK is considered a terror group in Turkey, the EU, UK and US.

Turkey views the PKK and the YPG as the same group. However the US has been working with the YPG, which is part of the group of US-backed forces known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that has fought against IS in Syria.

Shortly after the phone call between Mr Blinken and Mr Fidan, Turkey said it had launched renewed attacks on Kurdish target in northern Syria.

The Turkish defence ministry said it had hit 15 Kurdish targets “with the maximum amount” of ammunition and they included “headquarters and shelters”.

The PKK launched an armed struggle against the Turkish government in 1984, calling for an independent Kurdish state within Turkey.

In the 1990s, the PKK rolled back on its demands for an independent state, calling instead for more autonomy for the Kurds. More than 40,000 people have died in the conflict.

Fighting flared up again after a two-year-old ceasefire ended in July 2015.

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