Fears over US-Turkey military confrontation in Syria

Erdogan urges US to stop aiding Syrian Kurds

The United States has around 2,000 special forces troops in Syria, officially as part of an global USA -led coalition, assisting the Kurds in battle against Islamic State.

Two US military officials told CNN on Thursday that US forces in the Manbij area had observed no Turkish military strikes or operations.

"We carefully track those weapons that are provided to them, we ensure that they, to the maximum extent possible, don't fall into the wrong hands and we're continuing discussions with the Turks on this issue", Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, joint staff director, told reporters. Analysts have cautioned that the area could be a flashpoint in already strained relations between Washington and Ankara.

They include the lasting defeat of Islamic State and helping Syrian refugees return home while avoiding civilian casualties.

The official USA presence in Syria numbers around 5,000.

Asked about Turkey's assertions that its troops will move on toward the town of Manbij, further from Afrin, McKenzie said the U.S.is clearly tracking movement by Turkey but downplayed the chances of American forces being threatened there.

President Donald Trump plans to raise the USA concerns over the Turkish offensive in a telephone call with Erdogan expected on Wednesday, a senior US official said.

Speaking prior to the two leaders' conversation Tuesday, former United States ambassador to Turkey, Eric Edelman, said the currents running through Turkish domestic politics are tightly intertwined with perceptions of the US.

Turkey has expressed displeasure over US policy in eastern Syria for the last two years, and in March 2017 the US had to send armored vehicles to warn off Ankara from attacking US SDF partners near Manbij in Syria.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group that monitors the civil war, reported airstrikes in almost 20 villages.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that Turkey is not interested in seizing Syrian territories, and that the ongoing operation in Afrin will end as soon as Turkey's objectives are met.

Turkey said three of its soldiers had been killed.

Turkey regards Kurdish separatists as terrorists. "It wants to continue to work with Syrian Kurds in eastern Syria as a core part of building stability post-ISIS, but it also wants to keep Turkey as a close North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally and it's become increasingly hard for the United States to do both".

Erdogan said Turkish-led forces would extend the mission to Manbij, a city captured from IS in 2016 by Kurdish-led forces, backed by the United States. "I can't see him backing off or ratcheting back the Afrin operation given how much he stands to gain from it".

On the sidelines of the assembly of foreign ministers' meeting, which was held in Paris on Tuesday, Cavusoglu met U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Kurdish leaders meanwhile have demanded that Washington rein in Turkey, and vowed to resist its cross-border operation.

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