- Title: U.S. envoy says things 'better' in Syria as lawmakers criticize Trump policies
- Date: 23rd October 2019
- Summary: WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES (OCTOBER 22, 2019) (UNRESTRICTED POOL) WIDE OF SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP'S SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR SYRIA ENGAGEMENT, JAMES JEFFREY SEATED FOR A PUBLIC HEARING OF THE U.S. SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE BACK VIEW OF JEFFREY AS SENATOR BOB MENENDEZ ASKS: "Were you consulted about the withdrawal of troops, of troops as as as was recently done? (SOUNDBITE) (English) PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP'S SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR SYRIA ENGAGEMENT, JAMES JEFFREY SAYING: "I personally was not consulted before the December. MENENDEZ (OFF CAMERA): "You were not consulted even though you are the special envoy here in the context of Syria. Let me ask you this, Isn't it fair to say that the SDF (Syrian Defense Forces) has been a reliable partner in the fight against ISIS (Islamic State)?" JEFFREY: "Absolutely, Senator." MENENDEZ: "Isn't it fair to say that we cannot achieve an enduring defeat of ISIS through air power alone without some type of ground forces? JEFFREY: "We need ground forces. They do not necessarily have to be American senator." MENENDEZ: "That's right. And this is why this is exactly the point. It was the Kurds who were largely our ground forces. It's the Kurds that lost about eleven to thirteen thousand of their people. It's the Kurds that were detaining over 10,000 ISIS fighters and families for us. So it doesn't have to be us. But when you betray the person who the entity who you are fighting on the battlefield with and you basically leave them when you're finished using them and say, you know, you're on your own. It's a hell of a way to send a global message that, in fact, don't fight for the United States, because when they're finished with you, they let you die on the battlefield" WIDE OF FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE MEMBERS (SOUNDBITE) (English) PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP'S SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR SYRIA ENGAGEMENT, JAMES JEFFREY SAYING: "We're in a better place now than we were a week ago." WIDE OF FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE MEMBERS (SOUNDBITE) (English) PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP'S SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR SYRIA ENGAGEMENT, JAMES JEFFREY SAYING: "Again, a relatively small number appeared to have escaped, of actual detainees as opposed to people that we worry about who are internally displaced persons, mainly adult females that were married to ISIS fighters. So, the number is relatively small. We're always worried. SENATOR TED CRUZ (TEXAS REPUBLICAN) (OFF CAMERA): "Can you quantify relatively small?" JEFFREY: "I would say in the dozens at this point. I mean, there are various accounts out there, but there's a lot of propaganda - both from the Turkish side and from the other side. CRUZ (OFF CAMERA): "Dozens of ISIS fighters?" JEFFREY: "Dozens of ISIS fighters, perhaps. I can think of one incident where five supposedly fled and there have been a couple of other rumors that we're looking into. The problem is that under these circumstances, we don't have the same eyes on that we normally did." WIDE OF JEFFREY 10 JEFFREY LISTENING TO SENATOR BEN CARDIN (DEMOCRAT - MARYLAND) (OFF CAMERA) ASKING: " You are fully in accord with the president's decision to relocate our troops?" (SOUNDBITE) (English) PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP'S SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR SYRIA ENGAGEMENT, JAMES JEFFREY SAYING: "I carry out the instruction of the president." CARDIN: "My question is, do you fully -- You've now said didn't have any effect. So, do you agree with his policy or not? JEFFREY: "I agree that presidents have to make that decision, not people in the bureaucracy such as me." CARDIN: "For the record, you did not answer my question." WHITE FLASH (SOUNDBITE) (English) SENATOR MITT ROMNEY (UTAH - REPUBLICAN) SAYING: "I would only note, Mr. Chairman, that that we told --- our president told President Erdogan that we were pulling pulling out our troops. We did so and they attacked within a matter of hours. And you say those are unrelated, but it would seem to me that there was a relationship, Mr. Chairman." (SOUNDBITE) (English) SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (SOUTH CAROLINA - REPUBLICAN) SAYING: "If we leave the Kurds behind, in their mind, and in the eyes of the world, good luck having anybody help us in the future to fight ISIS. This is the most important decision the President will make anytime soon. I stand ready to help him. I think we're on the right track. But, I will not legitimize a solution that is not real. We're playing with people's lives, so we have to have a real solution. Thank you both for what you've done." WIDE OF JEFFREY
- Embargoed: 5th November 2019 23:09
- Keywords: Syria Islamic State ISIS James Jeffrey envoy Senate Foreign Relations
- Location: WASHINGTON D.C., UNITED STATES
- Reuters ID: LVA001B26K1TZ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:Prospects for an end to Turkey's offensive against Kurdish fighters in Syria were better than a week ago, U.S. President Donald Trump's special envoy for Syria said on Tuesday (October 22), but a permanent ceasefire would depend on both sides meeting the terms of last week's temporary ceasefire agreement.
"We're in a better place now than we were a week ago," Special Envoy James Jeffrey told a Senate hearing where both Democrats and Trump's fellow Republicans lawmakers criticized Trump's policies. He said Turkey's military had agreed to a more permanent "pause" in the fighting, if Kurdish fighters withdrew from territory as spelled out in last week's agreement. The five-day ceasefire expired on Tuesday.
U.S. sanctions on Ankara would be eased only if Turkey stopped the offensive, Jeffrey said.
The Republican-led Senate Foreign Relations Committee called Jeffrey to testify two weeks after Trump abruptly announced that he was removing U.S. troops from Syria, clearing the way for Turkey's offensive against the Kurds and changing the course of the more than eight-year-long Syrian war.
Jeffrey told the committee on Tuesday "dozens" of Islamic State fighters had been freed since Turkey began its incursion in northeastern Syria.
Meanwhile, Syrian and Russian forces will deploy in northeast Syria to remove Kurdish YPG fighters and their weapons from the border with Turkey under a deal agreed to on Tuesday by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Committee members from both parties raised concerns that the United States had lost leverage over Ankara, "abandoned" Kurdish fighters who had helped battle Islamic State militants and about the danger of increased instability in a volatile region.
The Kurds ran prisons holding Islamic State fighters. Roughly 10,000 Islamic State detainees were at risk of release if "things go south" in northern Syria, Jeffrey said. He estimated dozens had got out so far.
Several senators mentioned the possibility that NATO ally Turkey would carry out "ethnic cleansing" of the Kurds.
Jeffrey is due to testify to the Democratic-led House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday.
"If we leave the Kurds behind, in their mind, and in the eyes of the world, good luck having anybody help us in the future to fight ISIS. This is the most important decision the President will make anytime soon. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said.
Jeffrey said he was not consulted about Trump's plan to withdraw troops. He said he was angry about Turkey's offensive, but said Turkey remains a democracy that shares many U.S. values and is not an international rival.
(Production: Deborah Gembara)
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