US slams Turkey over clash with Kurdish forces
A Turkish boy waves to Turkish tank convoy driving into Syria from the border city of Karkamis in the southern region of Gaziantep, on August 26, 2016. (AFP/Bulent Kilic)
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The Pentagon has called for an immediate de-escalation in clashes between Turkey and Syrian Kurdish forces, saying the fighting is “unacceptable” and a "source of deep concern."
Ankara launched a bloody offensive in northern Syria last week and killed 25 Kurdish forces on Sunday, a day after a Turkish soldier died in a rocket attack allegedly by the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).
“This is an already crowded battle space,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a written statement. “Accordingly, we are calling on all armed actors to stand down immediately and take appropriate measures to de-conflict.”
Turkey threatens it will carry out more strikes on the Kurdish fighters if they fail to retreat beyond the Euphrates River.
However, YPG forces insist that they have already withdrawn to the east of the Euphrates in line with US and Turkish demands.
The Pentagon spokesman said the US had demanded the YPG return to the eastern side of the Euphrates but said Washington understood this had "largely occurred."
Ankara regards the YPG and YPD as allies of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting for an autonomous Kurdish region inside Turkey since the 1980s.
The US-allied YPG, which controls nearly Syria’s entire northern border with Turkey, has been fighting against Daesh. Conversely, Turkey is running a dual military campaign in Syria targeting both Daesh militants and the YPG.
It adds to simmering tensions between Ankara and Washington when Turkey's government is still reeling from last month's failed coup, which it says Washington was too slow to condemn.
US Vice President Joe Biden intended to patch up ties in a visit last week, just as Turkish forces entered Syria.