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Trump Urges Ankara to 'Curtail' Afrin Operation

26 January 2018

A senior US official says Washington is concerned that Turkey's military offensive in Afrin could distract from the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria and could be exploited by extremists to re-supply or create safe havens. "There was merely an exchange of views on Operation Oilve Branch between the presidents".

A White House statement says Trump is concerned that by "escalating violence in Afrin, Syria risks undermining our shared goals in Syria".

The Turkish offensive, now in its fifth day in the Kurdish-led Afrin enclave, seeks to oust from the area the USA -allied People's Protection Units, or YPG, which Ankara regards as an element of a militant Kurdish group that has pursued a decades-long insurgency in Turkey.

Erdogan's office said the Turkish leader urged Trump in the phone call to halt the United States supply of weapons to the Syrian Kurdish militia.

According to a White House statement, Trump "urged Turkey to de-escalate, limit its military actions, and avoid civilian casualties and increases to displaced persons and refugees".

Turkey has demanded that the USA extradite Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric living in exile in Pennsylvania who Ankara accused of masterminding an attempted coup in Turkey in July 2016.

Trump also invited closer bilateral cooperation to address "Turkey's legitimate security concerns".

U.S. officials have yet to offer clarity on their stance on the Turkish operation on Afrin, other than expressing concern it could lead to volatility and risks complicating the battle against Islamic State, while also supporting Ankara's right to security. She said it will be key for the Trump administration to engage Turkish officials ahead of any potential follow-on operations in Manbij.

An unidentified senior USA official quoted by the AP said that Washington's "number one concern is the safety and security of troops in the vicinity".

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They crossed the border into Syria alongside thousands of Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters. US officials said they have made it clear to Turkey that an attack on Manbij is unacceptable...

The White House statement concluded saying, "The two leaders pledged to improve the strategic partnership between the U.S. and Turkey, particularly in "fostering regional stability and combating terrorism in all its forms", including ISIS, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), al-Qa'ida, and Iranian-sponsored terrorism".

The military has also said that only terrorist targets are being destroyed and "utmost importance" is being given to not harm any civilians.

Iran's reaction to Turkey's military operation is not muted either.

U.S., British and German volunteers who fought against Islamic State alongside Kurdish-led forces in Syria are also now in the Afrin area to help confront Turkey, the SDF said.

On Wednesday, some 350 Kurds demonstrated outside the United Nations headquarters in Geneva against Erdogan and the military operation in northern Syria.

A Kurdish official told the German dpa news agency that USA soldiers are still in Manbij, bringing up the possibility of unintended clashes between the forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies.

"The US president touched upon the necessity of limiting the duration of Operation Olive Branch and, keeping in mind the presence of a small number of US troops in Manbij, the need to prevent a hot conflict in the area", the Turkish official said. The US has worked closely with the Kurds in eastern Syria and is a close North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally of Ankara's.

Trump Urges Ankara to 'Curtail' Afrin Operation