Pentagon Urges Turkey, Kurdish Forces to Halt Fire in Syria

  • Defense, State departments urge YPG not to seize new territory
  • U.S. admonishes Turkey for reported cross-border shelling

The U.S. Defense Department is urging Turkey and Kurdish forces in Syria to quit firing at each other as reports of fresh violence between the two parties threaten their efforts to counter Islamic State.

“We are concerned about the situation north of Aleppo and are working to de-escalate tensions on all sides,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “We have urged Syrian Kurdish forces affiliated with the YPG not to take advantage of a confused situation by seizing new territory. We have also seen reports of artillery fire from the Turkish side of the border and urged Turkey to cease such fires.”

The Pentagon noted that the Turkish and Syrian Kurdish forces share an enemy in Islamic State, and urged all parties to abide by agreements made in Munich this week to seek a cessation of hostilities in Syria.

The State Department released an identical statement on Saturday from spokesman John Kirby.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has criticized the U.S. for backing the YPG, Syrian Kurdish fighters who are classified by Turkey as terrorists. Earlier this month, Brett McGurk, President Barack Obama’s envoy for the international coalition against Islamic State, visited the Syrian town of Kobani, where Kurds fought back a siege by Islamic State near Turkey’s border last year.

Turkish Response

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu reported earlier Saturday that Turkey had returned YPG shellfire from the Syrian town of Azaz under the military’s rules of engagement, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency. Davutoglu said the latest developments in Syria threatened Turkey’s national security, and he told Kurdish YPG militants to pull back immediately from areas surrounding Azaz.

Davutoglu said he had informed U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in a phone call that Turkey would take all necessary measures to respond to the threat.

Anadolu also reported Saturday that Turkish forces responded to a mortar attack from the Syrian military that targeted a police station in Turkey, citing an unidentified military source who didn’t disclose what form of retaliation Turkey used.

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