Whasington, 6 Jumadal Awwal 1437/16 February 2016 (MINA) – The U.S. on Monday urged Turkey and Russia to avoid escalating tensions as Turkey confirmed its troops shelled terrorist PYD’s positions in Azaz in northern Syria, the site of Russian airstrikes.
“As we have stated before, it is important that the Russians and Turks speak directly, and take measures to prevent escalation,” a State Department spokeswoman, Anadolu Agency quoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA) as reporting.
The statement follows remarks by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu who said earlier Monday that Turkey would not allow the fall of the Azaz district near the Turkish border.
Since Saturday, Turkish troops have shelled PYD positions around Azaz in response to artillery strikes against Turkey.
The YPG, the armed wing of the PYD, crossing west of the Firat (Euphrates) River, where Azaz lies is a red line for Turkey.
YPG “elements” have been driven from Azaz’s surroundings, but a severe response will be made if the military wing of the terrorist PYD group tried to approach the Syrian district, according to Davutoglu.
The European Union weighed in saying increased fighting in was not what the it expected for Syria after an agreement was singed to work toward a “cessation of hostilities”. “Having on-the-ground trains that go in the opposite directions is obviously not what we expect,” said Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief.
Meanwhile, Russian airstrikes in and around Aleppo, near Azaz, has caused many civilian causalities, including children, Davutoglu said.
The U.S. condemned the airstrikes that struck civilian targets, including a hospital run by the medical charity Doctors Without Borders and the Women’s and Children’s hospital in Azaz.
“That the Assad regime and its supporters would continue these attacks, without cause and without sufficient regard for international obligations to safeguard innocent lives, flies in the face of the unanimous calls by the ISSG, including in Munich, to avoid attacks on civilians and casts doubt on Russia’s willingness and/or ability to help bring to a stop the continued brutality of the Assad regime against its own people,” said State Department spokesman John Kirby in a written statement.
The International Syria Support group (ISSG) is a 17-nation and three-group coalition working toward a diplomatic solution in Syria.
Kirby urged all parties to cease attacks on civilians and “take immediate steps” to allow humanitarian access and a halt to the fighting in Syria.
The condemnation drew push back from Syria that rejected claims it or Russia was responsible for the strikes.
The Syrian Ambassador to Moscow, Riad Haddad, speaking to Russian media said the airstrikes on the Doctors Without Borders hospital were carried out by U.S. planes.
The U.S. countered with a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq tweeting that coalition airstrikes hit only Daesh’s self-proclaimed capital Raqqah and Hasakah city.
Azaz, which is part of Syria’s Aleppo province, serves as a critical corridor that connects Turkey.
Just 6 kilometers (4 miles) from the Turkish border, it has been the site of recent heavy fighting as the PYD has advanced during a Russian-backed Syrian government offensive against opposition forces.
The PYD is the Syrian affiliate of the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist group by the U.S. and the EU.
The PKK has targeted Turkish security forces and civilians since 1984. It resumed its 30-year armed campaign against the Turkish state in late July 2015.
Since then, more than 260 members of the security forces have been martyred and thousands of PKK terrorists killed in operations across Turkey and northern Iraq. (T/P010/R01)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)