US Calls for De-Escalation as Fighting Between Turkey, Syrian Kurds Escalates

Renewed hostilities between Turkey and Syrian Kurdish fighters have not sat well with the United States, which repeatedly warned on Tuesday that the fighting would benefit the Islamic State terrorist group.

Senior US officials acknowledge that Turkey has the right to defend itself against terrorist attacks, but have warned that recent Turkish airstrikes and rocket attacks by Syrian Kurdish forces are undermining efforts by all countries to contain and degrade IS.

“We oppose any military action that destabilizes the situation in Syria,” Col. Joe Buccino, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, told VOA by email.

“These actions threaten our shared goals, including the ongoing fight against ISIS to ensure that the group can never regenerate and threaten the region,” he added, using another acronym for the terrorist group.

The US-led coalition to defeat IS also called for de-escalation, taking the message to social media.

“These strikes endanger the safety of civilians, undermine hard-fought stability in the region, and disrupt our shared goal of defeating ISIS,” the coalition tweeted.

Defense officials in Washington tried to convey the message later in the day, adding that US officials were in contact with both Turkey and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

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“We continue to call for de-escalation on all sides, in our conversations and what we’ve said publicly is that these strikes from all sides are jeopardizing our mission, which is to defeat ISIS,” Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said. briefing on Tuesday in response to a question from the Voice.

Although relations between Washington and Ankara have been strained in recent years, the US and Turkey are long-standing allies, and Turkey is also a key member of NATO.

But officials in Ankara resented Washington’s willingness to cooperate with the Kurdish-led SDF’s efforts to defeat IS.

Many members of the SDF come from the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Syria-based offshoot of the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Ankara and Washington call a terrorist organization.

According to Turkey, the SDF and the YPG are one and the same. Turkish officials recently launched an offensive against both groups, blaming them for the Nov. 13 bombing in Istanbul that killed at least eight people and injured dozens more.

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Both the YPG and the SDF denied involvement in the bombing, but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that the search for justice had gone nowhere, despite calls from the US and others for restraint.

“We have been fighting terrorists for several days with our planes, guns and weapons,” Erdogan said on RT. “God willing, we will exterminate them all as soon as possible together with our tanks, soldiers.”

Turkish officials say they have killed or captured more than 180 Kurdish fighters in the operation, and blame the YPG and SDF for killing at least three civilians and wounding at least six others in cross-border mortar attacks.

Meanwhile, Syrian Kurdish officials have accused Turkey of carrying out airstrikes specifically designed to weaken efforts to counter IS.

“The Turkish airstrike is a clear message of hope to ISIS terrorist cells,” SDF spokesman Farhad Shami tweeted late Tuesday, referring to the reported airstrikes in al-Makman village, 70 kilometers from the border with Turkey.

“There are operations against ISIS cells in that area and our forces with the International Coalition often pursue ISIS cells there,” Shami added.

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Earlier, Sinam Mohamad, the US representative for the SDF’s political wing, the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), tweeted that a separate Turkish airstrike hit both the SDF’s counter-terrorism units and a base used by the US.

She said two members of the counter-terrorism unit were killed.

US Central Command, which oversees US forces in the region, confirmed the attack in an email late Tuesday. in a letter to Balas.

“While no US forces were present at the base during this morning’s strike, this action puts US troops operating in Syria to defeat ISIS at risk,” the statement said.

The US has about 900 troops in Syria and another 2,500 in Iraq as part of an ongoing effort to contain and defeat IS.

“We will continue to monitor what’s happening on the ground and make sure our forces are safe,” Pentagon spokesman Singh told reporters on Tuesday, adding that “our force posture has not changed at this time.”

Dorian Jones contributed to this report.

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