US urges Turkey to halt Syria strikes
The US pressed Turkey on Saturday to halt military strikes on Kurdish and Syrian government targets in the northern province of Aleppo, as Ankara considers a joint ground assault with Saudi troops.
"We are concerned about the situation north of Aleppo and are working to de-escalate tensions on all sides," State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.
Turkey’s state-run news agency Anatolia, citing a military source, said its armed forces had shelled Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) targets around the town of Azaz and also responded to Syrian government fire on a Turkish military guard post in Turkey's southern Hatay region.
"We have urged Syrian Kurdish and other forces affiliated with the YPG (Kurdish People's Protection Units) not to take advantage of a confused situation by seizing new territory," Kirby said. "We have also seen reports of artillery fire from the Turkish side of the border and urged Turkey to cease such fire."
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Menagh air base, recently taken by the YPG from Nusra Front, was hit in the Turkish shelling.
Ankara considers the PYD and its YPG militia to be branches of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.
"Turkey and the YPG share a serious threat of ISIL poised just to the east of the Azaz corridor," Kirby said, referring to the self-proclaimed Islamic State group that has seized territory in Syria and Iraq.
"We continue to encourage all parties to focus on this common threat, which has not subsided, and to work toward a cessation of hostilities, as agreed in Munich."
The shelling came just a day after world powers announced an ambitious plan to stop fighting in Syria within a week.
But doubts have emerged over its viability, especially because it didn’t include IS or Al-Qaeda's local branch, which is fighting alongside other rebel groups in several areas.