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US Lauds Turkey, Kurdish Fighters Respite in Syria

Turkish army tanks and Turkish-backed Syrian fighters make their way in the Syrian border town of Jarablus as it is pictured from the Turkish town of Karkamis, in the southeastern Gaziantep province, Turkey, August 24 .Turkish army tanks and Turkish-backed Syrian fighters make their way in the Syrian border town of Jarablus as it is pictured from the Turkish town of Karkamis, in the southeastern Gaziantep province, Turkey, August 24 .

The United States welcomed an apparent pause in fighting between Turkish-backed forces and Kurdish militia fighters in Syria on Tuesday, both of them members of the coalition fighting Islamic State, but it was far from clear that any truce would hold.

Washington has been alarmed by NATO ally Turkey’s incursion into northern Syria, launched almost a week ago. The operation, dubbed “Euphrates Shield,” aims to push back IS but also to prevent US-backed Kurdish militia fighters from seizing more territory along the Turkish border, Reuters reported.

Ankara fears advances by Kurdish fighters as IS is pushed out are aimed at establishing a Kurdish enclave along Syria’s northern border, a move which could embolden a three-decade-long Kurdish insurgency on Turkish soil.

The Turkish incursion has left Washington scrambling to get its feuding allies to focus their firepower on IS instead of each other after clashes that have threatened to unravel America’s war strategy in Syria.

“The United States welcomes the overnight calm between the Turkish military and other counter-ISIL forces in Syria,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, using an acronym for the militant group.

US State Department spokesman John Kirby said the period of calm had lasted 12 to 18 hours and the United States would like it to continue so that all members of the coalition could focus their efforts on fighting IS militants.

A Kurdish military official said a ceasefire between Turkey and Kurdish-backed militia fighters was holding. But Turkish military sources denied there was any such agreement, while a Turkish-backed Syrian rebel commander characterized it only as a “pause” and said that military operations would soon resume.

Turkish-backed forces began their offensive last week by capturing the Syrian frontier town of Jarablus from IS; they then advanced on areas controlled by Kurdish-aligned militias which have US support in battling jihadists.

Washington said the offensive risked undermining the fight against IS.

  French Concern

French President Francois Hollande said he understood Turkey’s need to defend itself but that targeting Kurdish forces battling jihadists could further inflame the five-year-old Syrian conflict.

“Those multiple, contradictory interventions carry risks of a general flare-up,” he told a meeting of French ambassadors.

Ankara says it will not take orders from anyone on how to protect the nation. The Turkish Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday military operations in Syria would continue until all threats to Turkish security were removed and that US comments on Turkey’s targets in the operation were “unacceptable”.

“The statements of US officials about the content and the targets of the Euphrates Shield operation ... are unacceptable and are not in line with the alliance between the two countries,” a foreign ministry spokesman said, adding that a complaint had been lodged with the US ambassador to Turkey.

Eager to avoid more clashes between Turkey and US-backed Syrian fighters, the Pentagon said the US-led coalition against IS was establishing communications channels to better coordinate in a “crowded battle space”.

Financialtribune.com