US urges ‘restraint’ in Turkish military operations in northwest Syria

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This handout picture taken and released by Dogan News Agency on January 21, 2018 shows damaged cars after rockets hit at Reyhanli, a small town in Hatay province. / AFP PHOTO / DOGAN NEWS AGENCY

US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert on Sunday issued a press statement regarding the situation in northwest Syria, urging Turkey, which has launched an offensive on Kurdish-held positions in Afrin, to exercise restraint and ensure that its military operations remain limited and avoid civilian casualties.

“As expressed by Secretary Tillerson in calls to his Turkish and Russian counterparts yesterday, the United States is very concerned about the situation in northwest Syria, especially the plight of innocent civilians who are now faced with an escalation in fighting. We continue to be supportive of addressing the legitimate security concerns of Turkey as a NATO Ally and critical partner in the effort to defeat ISIS. However, we urge Turkey to exercise restraint and ensure that its military operations remain limited in scope and duration and scrupulous to avoid civilian casualties. We call on all parties to remain focused on the central goal of defeating ISIS. Now is the time for great nations to work together to secure a peaceful stability for the people of Syria,” Nauert said in the statement.

Turkey has launched Operation Olive Branch targeting Syria’s Afrin region, which is controlled by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), considered by Turkish authorities as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The Turkish Armed Forces backed up by armored vehicles, special forces and infantry regiments have advanced five kilometers (three miles) inside Afrin, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Sunday.

Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım on Sunday said Turkey was going to establish a 30-kilometer-deep secure zone in Afrin.

“All sorts of logistical support [to the PYD] will be our target,” Yıldırım said when asked what would happen if the US were to give logistical support to PYD militants.

Underlining that there are about 8-10,000 militants in Afrin, Yıldırım said they would settle new refugees outside Turkey’s border if a new influx starts due to the operation in Afrin.

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