US calls on Turkey not to invade Afrin in northern Syria

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Department of State Spokesperson Heather Nauert (Yasin Ozturk / Anadolu Agency)

US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert at a press briefing on Thursday called on Turkey not to invade Afrin, a Syrian Kurdish canton in northwest Syria.

“We would certainly call on Turks not to take any action of that sort,” she said in response to a reporter’s question about Turkey’s preparations for what is believed to be an imminent invasion.

Turkish security forces on Saturday hit several Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) targets in Afrin following remarks made by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who said Turkey could carry out a military operation in Syria’s Afrin and Manbij regions.

“In Manbij, if they break their promises, we will take the matter into our own hands until there are no terrorists left. They will see what we’ll do in about a week,” he said, adding, “If the terrorists in Afrin don’t surrender, we will tear them down.”

Turkey views the PYD as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Meanwhile, the US-led Global Coalition To Defeat ISIS is reportedly working with its Syrian militia allies to set up a new border force of 30,000 to be deployed along the border with Turkey to the north, the Iraqi border to the southeast and along the Euphrates River Valley.

Erdoğan said on Monday that Turkey would destroy the border security force planned by the US.

“America has admitted that it is setting up a terrorist army along our border. It is our duty to strangle this terror army before it is born,” Erdoğan said during a meeting in Ankara.

“The US hears and takes seriously the concerns of our NATO ally Turkey. … We must have Turkey’s close cooperation in achieving a new future for Syria that ensures security for Syria’s neighbors,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said following Erdoğan’s comments, during an address at the Hudson Institute at Stanford University.

The Pentagon, however, said on Wednesday it was not creating a new army or a conventional border guard in Syria after Turkey reacted with outrage to US plans to train fighters including Syrian Kurds on internal security.

“The U.S. continues to train local security forces in Syria. The training is designed to enhance security for displaced persons returning to their devastated communities,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

”It is also essential so that ISIS cannot reemerge in liberated and ungoverned areas. This is not a new ‘army’ or conventional ‘border guard’ force,” it said.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Thursday said the US concerning the creation of a conventional border guard in Syria would not delay Turkey’s planned operation against the Afrin.

“The US statement is not fully satisfactory. The US promised to get its weapons back [from Kurdish militant groups in Syria]. The promise must be kept,” Çavuşoğlu told CNN Türk.

The Turkish minister also said Turkey was engaged in talks with Russia and Iran over the use of Syrian airspace for the operation against Afrin.

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