A US F-16 fighter jet shot down a Turkish drone after it flew near US forces in northeast Syria, where Turkey has been intensifying its attacks on Kurdish-held areas. The incident sparked a diplomatic row between the two NATO allies, who have divergent interests and policies in the war-torn country.
The Pentagon confirmed the downing of the drone, saying it was in self-defense and after several warnings were issued to Turkey. A Turkish defense official denied that the drone belonged to the Turkish military, but said Turkey reserved the right to defend itself against any threat from the PKK, a Kurdish militant group that Ankara considers a terrorist organization.
The latest escalation in northern Syria comes amid a fragile ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey in March 2020, which aimed to end the violence in Idlib province, the last rebel stronghold in the country. The ceasefire has been repeatedly violated by both sides, and humanitarian groups have warned of a looming catastrophe for millions of civilians trapped in the crossfire.
The US State Department said it recognized Turkey’s legitimate security concerns regarding the PKK, but also urged restraint and de-escalation in northern Syria. It said it was concerned about the impact of the military escalation on civilian populations and the efforts to defeat IS.