North Atlantic Treaty Organisation chief says Turkey has right to defend itself amid Syria campaign

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation chief says Turkey has right to defend itself amid Syria campaign”

If the United States wants to "avoid a confrontation with Turkey - which neither they nor Turkey want - the way to this is clear: they must cut support given to terrorists", Bozdag told Turkish broadcaster A Haber.

Erdogan said 268 "terrorists" in Afrin have been neutralized - a term Ankara uses to refer to their removal from the battlefield, usually through death.

Meanwhile, US-backed SDF Kurdish militia has deployed fighters to the front line of Syria's Manbij to battle Turkey's military after Erdogan said it would be next after launching the cross-border Afrin operation, reported Aljazeera Online.

Turkey sees the YPG - trained, armed and supported by the United States to fight against ISIL - as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought a bloody, decades-long uprising in the country. 'These local security forces are aimed at preventing the potential outflow of fleeing ISIS terrorists as their physical presence in Syria nears its end and pending a longer-term settlement of the civil war in Syria to ensure that ISIS can not escape or return'.

Turkey launched the offensive on January 20 to drive out Syrian Kurdish fighters it regards as a security threat due to their affiliation with outlawed Kurdish rebels in Turkey.

The Russian Defense Ministry also puts blame on Washington for provoking Turkey's operation in Afrin, saying it allows for an uncontrolled amount of arms supplies to be pushed to pro-American groups in northern Syria.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg defended Turkey's military action but urged caution.

Turkey's air and ground operation has opened a new front in Syria's multi-sided civil war and could threaten USA plans to stabilise and rebuild a large area of northeast Syria - beyond President Bashar al-Assad's control - where the United States helped SDF to drive out ISIS.

However, analysts say those moves are largely tactical and ultimately Turkey will be open to listening to USA concerns about its military operation, given that Ankara needs the European Union for trade and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation partners for its security.

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"I'm not in any way critical of the Turkish decisions, but I'm just praying for their longer-term strategic patience", Bossert said. The latter has been fighting for an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984.

But Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed on Wednesday to expand "Operation Olive Branch" toward the Kurdish enclave of Manbij, some 60 miles (100km) east of Afrin. "And we, the opposition and the government, at the present moment come out in favor of Syria's territorial integrity", he said. The Observatory estimated 48 killed among Turkey and its allied rebel fighters, mostly Free Syrian Army (FSA), and 42 among the Kurdish fighters.

"The chance for political negotiations for peace and stability in Syria is there and must not be further hindered by military conflicts".

In a sign of deteriorating relations between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies, Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reported that the official US summary "differ (ed) from the truth discussed between the Turkish and US Presidents' phone conversation".

"Turkey has no design on the territories of another country".

A Turkish operation in Manbij would be fraught with risk due to the presence of the USA military personnel in and around the town.

McKenzie said the U.S. forces would protect themselves no matter what. "The incident is a matter of destroying the terrorist corridor in Syria", he added.

The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey's rights based on worldwide law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defense rights under the UN charter, and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said. "He reiterated that both nations must focus all parties on the shared goal of achieving the lasting defeat of ISIS".

Ankara has been infuriated by USA support for the YPG, which it sees as a domestic security threat, one of several issues that have brought relations between the United States and its Muslim NATO ally close to breaking point.

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