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US says escalation in Syria due to threatened Turkish ground offensive would be ‘dangerous’

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The United States said on Tuesday that an escalation in Syria and along the Turkish-Syrian border due to a Turkish ground offensive that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan threatened to launch last month against Kurdish fighters in Syria would be “dangerous,” local media reported.

Following a blast in central İstanbul that killed six people and wounded 81 on Nov. 13, Erdoğan said Turkey was more determined than ever to secure its border with Syria from attacks by Kurdish forces, threatening a ground operation “at the most convenient time.”

Presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın also said in late November that Turkey’s ground offensive in northern Syria could take place “tomorrow, next week or at any time.”

US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price was asked during a press briefing in Washington on Tuesday if they have any new message for Erdoğan regarding his threat to launch a ground offensive in northern Syria to “attack your allies the Kurds.”

Fighters from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) assisted the US-led campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Turkey considers the YPG to be an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.

“Our message on this has been consistent … ever since our concern about this arose. … We strongly oppose military action, including a potential land incursion that would further destabilize the lives of communities in Syria and risk, importantly, the global coalition’s hard-earned progress against ISIS,” Price said.

He added that they believed all parties should immediately de-escalate since an escalation in Syria and along the Turkish-Syrian border would be “dangerous” and “a threat to the safety of civilians and potentially even US personnel.”

“We remain concerned by escalating action in northern Syria, including recent airstrikes, some of which directly threaten the safety of U.S. personnel who are working to defeat ISIS,” he said.

When asked about whether they were aware of a deadline that Turks reportedly had given to the SDF to withdraw from three towns, including Manbij, Price replied that he wasn’t familiar with it offhand and would have to refer the question to the Turks.

Ankara launched a series of air strikes in Operation Claw-Sword on Nov. 20, hitting dozens of Kurdish militant targets across Iraq and Syria.

The air raids followed the attack in Istanbul that Ankara blamed on the PKK. The outlawed group denied any role in the Nov. 13 bombing.

Erdoğan has been threatening a new military operation in northern Syria since May and upped those threats in the wake of the bomb attack.

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