BELGRADE – Washington has called on Turkey to cease massive artillery fire on Kurdish targets near the city of Azaz in northwest Syria, including an air base recently retaken from Islamist rebels, and to “deescalate tensions on all sides.”
“We are concerned about the situation north of Aleppo and are working to deescalate tensions on all sides,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement Saturday.
“We have also seen reports of artillery fire from the Turkish side of the border and urged Turkey to cease such fire,” he said.
Turkish armed forces began heavy artillery fire earlier Saturday, targeting Kurdish positions in what Turkish military officials called a “retaliation.” The shelling also targeted Syrian forces, according to a military source quoted by RIA Novosti.
The Turkish shelling of Kurdish positions continued for over three hours almost without a break, a Kurdish source told RT. The source added that the Turkish forces were using mortars and missiles and firing from the Turkish border not far from the city of Azaz in the Aleppo Governorate.
The shelling targeted the Menagh military air base and the nearby village of Maranaz, where “many civilians were wounded,” local journalist Barzan Iso told RT. He added that Kurdish forces and their allies among “the Syrian democratic forces” had taken control of the air base Thursday.
Kirby said Turkey and the Syrian Kurdish fighters should work together, as they both share a serious threat from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in northern Syria.
He said that Washington does not consider the Syrian Kurds terrorists. The comment prompted anger in Ankara. Turkey’s Foreign Ministry summoned the US ambassador John Bass on Tuesday, expressing its “unease,” AFP reported.