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Turkish Operations Kill Over 30 Syrian Civilians

27 January 2018

After Presidents Donald Trump and Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke Wednesday night, the White House indicated that the U.S. president urged Turkey to "reduce and limit military actions" and asked him to avoid "any action that could provoke a confrontation between the Turkish and American forces".

On Saturday Turkey launches operation "Olive Branch" into Syria intending to oust the YPG militia from its enclave of Afrin. U.S. soldiers are now stationed there, supporting Kurdish YPG militias.

Erdogan emphasised that the offensive, dubbed "Operation Olive Branch" was purely directed against terrorists who posed a security threat to the region, adding that the operation would target the Syrian town of Manbij next, and press on to the Iraqi border.

Speaking in Istanbul on Saturday, Erdogan criticized the US over its continued support for Kurdish groups, although he was careful not to identify the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally as the focus of his attack.

Redur Xelil also said in an interview that he was sure the US -led coalition against Islamic State, which has backed the SDF in its battle against the jihadists, was trying to put pressure on Turkey to limit its offensive.

Washington has more than 2,000 special forces and support troops inside Syria , mainly east of the Euphrates in an area also controlled by the YPG but separate from Afrin, which is west of the river.

U.S. -Turkish relations suffered a separate blow this week, with Ankara and Washington disputing each other's version of a telephone call Wednesday between the U.S. and Turkish presidents.

Turkey considers the Kurdish forces in Syria, known as the YPG, to be terrorists because it believes them to be linked to Kurdish separatists in Turkey. "But how can a strategic partner do such a thing to its strategic partner?"

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"OK", said Erdogan, citing what he said he told Trump in the conversation.

"We will take no step back".

The US and Turkey have long argued over the status and future of Syria's Kurds. Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities inhabit the majority Kurdish area and have expressed fears that they will be ethnically cleaned out of the area if Turkey succeeds in establishing itself there. "Turkey is trying to counterbalance the United State with its relations with Russian Federation". The group said in a statement Friday that among the dead are 59 civilians and 43 fighters, including eight female fighters. It says 38 civilians have been killed, mainly as a result of Turkish shelling, but Ankara strongly rejects such claims.

Turkish artillery fire pounded the Afrin region, state-run news agency Anadolu said.

This move of Turkey's obliges the U.S.to undergo drastic changes in its policies and short-term tactical alliances in the Syrian theater.

Turkey is angry at Washington's assistance to the Kurds, and tensions are high between the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies.

Turkey has stressed that the operation is being carried out "under the framework" of the country's "rights based on global law, UN Security Council resolutions, [and] its self-defense rights under the UN charter". In reality, the operation will serve to consolidate Turkish military presence in northern Syria ahead of forming a "safe zone" 30 kilometers into Syrian territory.

It's the hope of the administration that the United States can continue to offer something to Turkey. On Thursday, Turkey urged the United States to halt its support for YPG fighters or risk confronting Turkish forces on the ground.

Turkish Operations Kill Over 30 Syrian Civilians