Turkey: Erdogan visits military command center in south


The US and Turkey have released opposing accounts of a phone call between Presidents Donald Trump and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, highlighting deepening tensions between the two countries amid a Turkish military campaign in Syria.

Washington on Wednesday warned Turkey against risking a confrontation in northern Syria after Ankara said it would extend its military operations to areas held by USA -backed forces, the Associated Press reported.

The president "urged Turkey to de-escalate, limit its military actions, and avoid civilian casualties", a White House statement said.

The officials said Trump did not use the phrase "destructive and false rhetoric coming from Turkey" in reference to anti-U.S. statements by Turkish government officials.

Both sides confirmed that the two leaders discussed the consequences of a possible expansion towards the East of Turkish intervention in Syria, towards the Manbij region, where special U.S. forces are present to cooperate with Kurdish militia.

However, a Turkish official said that Trump did not raise concerns about escalating violence in Afrin and the two Presidents had simply exchanged views on the operation.

Darwish also said that the Manbij military council has deployed to the front lines in preparation for a potential attack, according to Reuters. "Their presence has been to ensure the stability in Manbij", the AP quoted him as saying.

"The US must first restore Turkey's trust", said the foreign minister. In the war, the USA provided air cover to YPG-led troops, while the Syrian army and Russian Federation avoided directly clashing with them.

Ankara regards Kurdish YPG fighters in Afrin as terrorists, and says they are linked to Kurdish PKK guerrillas who operate in Turkey itself.

On Jan. 20, the Turkish Armed Forces, together with the Free Syrian Army, launched the Operation Olive Branch in Afrin, Syria.

Turkey's Afrin operation will help to prevent Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) from reaching Europe through the Mediterranean, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said on January 25.

Turkey's military intervention in the Syrian border town of Afrin against Kurdish militants is a grim reminder of the complexities of the seven-year-long Syrian civil war.

Forty-eight Turkish-backed rebels and 42 YPG fighters have been killed in the fighting since Saturday, says the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group.

Turkey, a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member, launched the so-called Operation Olive Branch in Syria's northwestern city of Afrin on Saturday in a bid to eliminate the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara views as a terror organization and the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdish Workers Party (PKK).

They also said that during Wednesday's call, Trump assured Turkey that the USA would no longer supply Syrian Kurdish militia with weapons.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.