US tells Ankara it “strongly” opposes a new military operation in Syria

US tells Ankara it “strongly” opposes a new military operation in Syria
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Austin reiterated concern over the safety of US personnel in Syria

The US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin shared Pentagon’s “strong opposition” to a new Turkish military operation in Syria, in a phone call with his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar on Wednesday.

Austin also reiterated Washington’s concern over escalating action in Northern Syria, where some of the recent airstrikes “directly threatened the safety of U.S. personnel”, according to a statement by the US Department of Defense.

Akar on the other hand said “terrorists” are the only targets of Turkey’s operations.

“Harming the coalition forces or civilians are out of question,” Turkish Defense Minister told Austin, Akar’s office said.

The United States which maintains troops in Syria as part of a global coalition to root out the Islamic State, opposes Turkey’s military operations in the war-torn country, saying that Ankara’s actions will harm the efforts in fight against the ISIS. Washington on Monday also said it does not want to see any action in Syria that could put the American soldiers’ lives at risk.

Offering condolences to Akar for the loss of life in the Istanbul attack on Nov. 13 and reaffirming the importance of the “strategic” relationship with Turkey, Austin reiterated Washington’s call for de-escalation.

On Nov. 13, a bomb attack hit Istanbul, killing six and wounding 81 people. In response to the explosion, Turkey launched airstrikes into Northern Syria and Northern Iraq, targeting Kurdish groups which it blamed for the attack on its soil. Ankara also threatens for a ground operation against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its Syrian affiliate Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

The YPG forms the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that is allied with the US in the fight against the Islamic State. Turkey sees the YPG as an offshoot of the PKK, an outlawed armed group fighting an insurgency against Turkish military for Kurdish autonomous rights, and says the YPG is inseparable from the SDF, blaming the US of supporting Kurdish “terrorism” against Turkey.

According to Turkish Defense Ministry’s statement over the phone call with the US Secretary of Defence on Wednesday, Akar also told Austin that Turkey’s military operations are carried out in accordance with the international law.

Syrian and Iraqi governments strongly denounce Turkey’s operations, saying that Ankara is violating their territorial integrity.