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US Condemns Clashes in Syria Between Turkish and US-Allied Kurdish Forces

By Carla Babb August 29, 2016

The United States said Monday clashes in Syria between Turkish forces and units affiliated with a U.S.-supported Kurdish-led alliance are "unacceptable" and is calling on all sides to stand down "immediately."

"This is an already crowded battle space," Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook told VOA when asked about the recent fighting south of the Syrian town of Jarabulus, on the border with Turkey. "We are calling on all armed actors to stand down immediately and take appropriate measures to de-conflict."

The Turkish military, along with its Syrian rebel allies, is in the sixth day of a campaign designed to drive U.S.-allied Kurdish forces and Islamic State (IS) militants out of the Jarabulus area. Cook said Islamic State forces are no longer located in the areas where clashes are taking place.

The U.S. is prepared to support Turkey in operations against IS but also fully supports the Kurdish-led forces in efforts to defeat the militant group, Cook added.

The Pentagon says U.S. forces did not take part in either the Turkish airstrikes and artillery shelling of positions south of Jarabulus or the firing against Turkish forces in this area.

"The United States was not involved in these activities. They were not coordinated with U.S. forces, and we do not support them," Cook said.

The Pentagon press secretary expressed condolences to Turkey for the apparent loss of a Turkish soldier during the clashes, and he stressed the need for unity in the fight against Islamic State.

"Uncoordinated operations and maneuvers only provide room for ISIL to find sanctuary and continue planning attacks against Turkey, the SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces, which includes Kurdish fighters], the United States, and our partners around the world," Cook added.

Syrian rebels supported by Turkey have taken control of at least four villages and one town from Kurdish-led forces in the area, amid reports that Turkish airstrikes claimed the lives of at least 35 civilians.

Monitors from the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights say in the attacks Sunday 20 people were killed in the village of Jub-al-Kousa, while 50 people were wounded in an area controlled by militia allied with the Kurdish-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. The Observatory says another air strike killed 15 civilians and wounded 20 others near the town of Al-Armana.

The Turkish military said Sunday that its airstrikes in northern Syria killed 25 Kurdish militants and denied that civilians had also been killed. The Turkish military also said it is committed to protecting civilians under international law.

Turkey's state run Anadolu news agency said the dead Kurdish militants were "terrorist members" of the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD).

Turkish President President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at the rally Sunday that residents of Jarabulus are returning to their homes after Turkish-backed forces recaptured it from Islamic State (IS).

He praised his armed forces for forcing IS militants from Jarabulus. "They were attacking us from across the borders, now they are running away," Erdogan said, vowing to pursue the fleeing terrorists.

Turkey's military foray into Syria is a dramatic escalation of Ankara's involvement in the Syrian civil war.

The clashes bolster Western concerns that Turkey's military incursion into Syria is intended, in part, to target U.S.-supported Kurdish forces known as the Kurdish People's Protection Units, the YPG militia. The U.S. has described the YPG as one of its most effective allies in the fight against Islamic State, while Turkey is demanding a YPG retreat from all border territory seized from IS jihadists.



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