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U.S. senator warns against further Turkish incursions in Syria

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham speaks during a news conference at the United States embassy in Baghdad, Iraq July 4, 2018. REUTERS/Ahmed Aboulenein

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Turkey could find itself in a quagmire if it deepens its involvement in Syria’s multi-sided civil war, a U.S. senator said on Wednesday after meeting President Tayyip Erdogan this week.

Lindsey Graham, a Republican member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Reuters on a visit to Baghdad that Turkey should support a continued U.S. presence in Syria.

Turkey has launched two military incursions into northern Syria in the last two years, driving back Kurdish YPG and Islamic State fighters.

Ankara is outraged by U.S. support for the YPG, considering the militia a terrorist organisation. It has threatened further operations against the militia across northern Syria, including in the town of Manbij where U.S. troops are stationed alongside YPG fighters.

“I tried to make the case that you want America in Syria because the outcomes of us leaving are not good,” Graham said after meeting Erdogan in Turkey on a regional tour that also included northern Syria and Iraq.

“You don’t want any further incursions in Syria by the Turkish military, you’ll get yourself in a quagmire,” he added.

Last month Washington and Ankara endorsed a tentative deal in which the YPG would withdraw from Manbij while Turkish and U.S. forces would jointly maintain security and stability. Turkey says its forces and the U.S. military are now carrying coordinated but separate patrols there.

Keeping YPG fighters east of the Euphrates river, about 20 km (12 miles) from Manbij, “should be sufficient”, Graham said.

Turkish officials did not immediately respond to his comments.

Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; editing by David Stamp