US and Turkey hold talks over Syria situation

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The Turkish and U.S. presidents discussed Turkey’s ongoing military offensive in Syria’s Afrin in a phone conversation Wednesday, said the Turkish presidency in a statement. 

They exchanged views on the latest developments in Syria and the offensive, dubbed Operation Olive Branch, launched by Turkey on Jan. 20 to fight off threats from the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey assumes as the offshoot of outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The conversation focused on the importance of bilateral cooperation in fighting terrorism, the statement said, noting that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan emphasized the goal of the military incursion was to clear Afrin of “terrorist elements” for Turkey’s national security.

A White House statement released following the conversation said U.S. President Donald Trump “relayed concerns that escalating violence in Afrin, Syria, risks undercutting our shared goals in Syria.”

Trump urged Turkey to deescalate, limit its military actions, and avoid civilian casualties and increases of displaced persons and refugees, said the U.S. statement.

“He urged Turkey to exercise caution and to avoid any actions that might risk conflict between Turkish and U.S. forces,” it said in an indirect reference to Turkey’s plans to extend the military operation into Manbij region in Syria where U.S. soldiers are also deployed.

The U.S. president also reiterated that both nations must focus all parties on the shared goal of achieving the lasting defeat of the Islamic State, according to the statement.

Trump voiced concern about the destructive and false anti-U.S. rhetoric emanating from Turkey, as well as the U.S. citizens and local employees detained under the prolonged State of Emergency in Turkey, it added.

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