ANKARA/BEIRUT (Reuters) Turkey urged the United States on
Thursday to halt its support for Kurdish YPG fighters or risk
confronting Turkish forces on the ground in Syria, some of Ankaras
strongest comments yet about a potential clash with its NATO
Turkish soldiers are pictured in a village near the
Turkish-Syrian border in Hatay province, Turkey January 24, 2018.
REUTERS Umit Bektas Reuters
The comments, from the spokesman for President Tayyip Erdogans
government, underscore the growing bilateral tensions, six days
after Turkey launched its air and ground operation, Olive Branch,
in Syrias northwestern Afrin region.
Turkeys targeting of the YPG, which it views as a security
threat, has opened a new front in Syrias multi-sided civil war.
Any push by Turkish forces toward Manbij, part of a Kurdish-held
territory some 100 km (60 miles) east of Afrin, could threaten U.S.
plans to stabilize northeast Syria and bring them into direct
confrontation with U.S. troops deployed there.
Those who support the terrorist organization will become a
target in this battle, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said.
The United States needs to review its solders and elements
giving support to terrorists on the ground in such a way as to
avoid a confrontation with Turkey, Bozdag, who also acts as the
governments spokesman, told broadcaster A Haber.
The United States has around 2,000 troops in Syria, officially
as part of an international, U.S.-led coalition against Islamic
State. Washington has angered Ankara by providing arms, training
and air support to Syrian Kurdish forces that Turkey views as
U.S. forces were deployed in and around Manbij last March to
deter Turkish and U.S.-backed rebels from attacking each other and
have also carried out training missions in the area.
U.S. President Donald Trump urged Erdogan on Wednesday to
curtail the military operation in Syria, the White House said.
However Turkey has disputed that characterization of the
President Trump did not share any concerns about escalating
violence with regard to the ongoing military operation in Afrin, a
Turkish official said.
The two leaders discussion of Operation Olive Branch was limited
to an exchange of views, the official said.
Six days into the campaign, Turkish soldiers and their Free
Syrian Army rebel fighter allies have been battling to gain
footholds on the western, northern and eastern flanks of Afrin.
They appear to have made only limited gains, hampered by rain
and clouds, which have limi...