House chairman joins with European counterparts to slam Trump's Syria withdrawal

House chairman joins with European counterparts to slam Trump's Syria withdrawal
© Aaron Schwartz

The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee released a joint statement Monday with several of his European counterparts condemning Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria and expressing “regret” at President TrumpDonald John TrumpBubba Wallace to be driver of Michael Jordan, Denny Hamlin NASCAR team Graham: GOP will confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee before the election Southwest Airlines, unions call for six-month extension of government aid MORE’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the area.

“We, the Chairs of the Foreign Affairs Committees of the Parliaments of Germany, France, the United Kingdom, the European Parliament and the House of Representatives of the United States of America, jointly condemn in the strongest terms the Turkish military offensive in northeastern Syria. We consider the intrusion as a military aggression and a violation of international law,” House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelHouse panel halts contempt proceedings against Pompeo after documents turned over Engel subpoenas US global media chief Michael Pack The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - Pence lauds Harris as 'experienced debater'; Trump, Biden diverge over debate prep MORE (D-N.Y.) said in the joint statement with his counterparts in the European legislative branches.

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“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 added. “The turmoil caused by the 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.”

Engel has previously condemned Trump’s withdrawal and Turkey’s invasion, authoring a House-passed resolution opposing the moves and a bill that would impose sanctions on Turkey. But releasing a joint statement with foreign counterparts is unusual for a House member.

The statement was co-signed by David McAllister, chairman of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs; Norbert Rottgen, chairman of the German Bundestag Committee on Foreign Affairs; Marielle de Sarnez, chairwoman of the French National Assembly Committee on Foreign Affairs; and Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the U.K. House of Commons Committee on Foreign Affairs

Trump has faced widespread backlash for his decision withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria, paving the way for NATO ally Turkey to move forward with a long-threatened offensive against Syrian Kurdish forces.

Trump’s decision has been condemned as abandoning the Kurds, who were instrumental in the U.S.-led fight against ISIS, and allowing a chaos in which ISIS will resurge.

On Monday, Trump defended his decision by saying “we never agreed to protect the Kurds.”

“We supported them for 3 1/2, four years. We never agreed to protect the Kurds for the rest of their lives,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “Where's an agreement that said we have to say in the Middle East for the rest of humanity, for the rest of civilization to protect the Kurds? It never said that."

In their statement, Engel and his counterparts called the “abandonment” of the Kurds “wrong.”

“The Syrian Democratic Forces, our partner in the Global Coalition, massively contributed to the successful yet unfinished fight against Da’esh in Syria and incurred heavy losses by doing so,” they said, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.

The statement also called on the European Union and its member states to “take responsibility and engage in the conflict resolution.”

“This horrible war touches and affects the peoples of our countries in such an enormous way,” they said. “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.”