Washington, The US has urged Turkey to exercise restraint in its ongoing military operation in northern Syria as Turkish ground forces pressed ahead against the Syrian Kurdish group YPG in the enclave of Afrin.
Washington considers the YPG its closest ally in Syria, viewing it as the most effective ground force in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group.
Heather Nauert, spokeswoman for the US Department of State, said on Sunday that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke with his Turkish and Russian counterparts on the phone and called against an escalation in fighting in northern Syria.
“We urge Turkey to exercise restraint and ensure that its military operations remain limited in scope and duration and scrupulous to avoid civilian casualties,” said Nauert.
The statement on Sunday came just hours after Turkey said its ground troops had crossed into northern Syria.
Ankara considers Syria’s Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the YPG, “terrorist groups” with ties to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long fight inside Turkey.
It fears the establishment of a Kurdish corridor along its border.
Speaking in Istanbul earlier on Sunday, Binali Yildirim, Turkey’s prime minister, said Turkish forces had crossed into the YPG-controlled region in Syria at 08:05 GMT from the Turkish village of Gulbaba.
He said Turkey intended to establish a 30km “safe zone” in Afrin.
“Throughout the day we’ve heard the sound of jets in the sky, intense artillery and machine-gun fire,” Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker, reporting from the Turkey-Syria border, said.
The Turkish army has said it is targeting only “terrorist” positions and “utmost importance” was being given to not harm civilians.