WASHINGTON - The US State Department has called on Turkey not to take any military action in Syria’s northwestern region of Afrin.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert on Thursday urged Ankara to remain focused on fighting Daesh terrorists in the region.
Asked about reports that Turkey was making preparations to launch military strikes in Afrin, Nauert told reporters, “We would call ... on the Turks to not take any actions of that sort. ... We don’t want them to engage in violence but we want them to keep focused on ISIS [Daesh].”
The comments came after Ankara said Turkish forces will intervene in Afrin to counter Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militants.
Ankara views the YPG as the Syrian branch of the militant Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) that has been fighting for an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said earlier in the day that the recent statements from the United States regarding plans to create a 30,000-strong “terror army” on Syria’s northern borders with Turkey were not satisfactory for the Ankara government.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (Photo by AFP)
Cavusoglu told Turkish-language CNN Turk television news network that Turkey would intervene in Afrin and Manbij to counter YPG militants, and that its mistrust of Washington continues.
The top Turkish diplomat noted that the United States must retake the weapons given to the terrorists, and completely end its cooperation with them.
Meanwhile, Syria warned Turkey that any combat operation inside the war-torn country would be considered an act of aggression by the Turkish army.
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Meqdad told reporters in Damascus on Thursday that his country’s forces are prepared to repel such an attack.
“We warn the Turkish leadership that if they initiate combat operations in the Afrin area, that will be considered an act of aggression by the Turkish army,” he said. Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Meqdad
However, Turkey's Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul said on Thursday that his country “could never remain silent” in the face of developments that threatened its borders and security.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly said that Afrin should be cleared of “terrorists,” and demanded the deployment of Turkish troops there during a speech back in November 2016.
This is while US officials consider the YPG as the most effective fighting force against Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in northern Syria , and have substantially increased their weaponry and technology support to the militant group.