Turkey slams U.S. demand to pause operation in Syria

Turkey characterized as "baseless" a U.S. State Department request for its NATO ally to adhere to a UN Security Council-backed ceasefire in Syria.

Turkey would encourage Washington to focus on stopping Syrian regime atrocities elsewhere in Syria, such as in eastern Ghouta, and refrain from statements that support terrorists, foreign ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in Ankara on Wednesday, according to NTV television. Turkey is exercising its right to self defence under UN charters, he said.

In a statement on Tuesday, State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the United States would encourage Turkey “to go back and read the exact text of this UN Security Council resolution, and I would suggest that they do so.”

Nauert underlined that the UN resolution, passed on Saturday, demands that all parties cease hostilities in Syria without delay and ensure full and comprehensive implementation of a 30-day ceasefire, unless they are fighting Islamic State (ISIS), al-Qaeda, or the al-Nusrah Front.

“I think the resolution was clear here in naming exactly which groups are considered to be exempt from the ceasefire,” she said.

Turkey is continuing military operations in Syria’s Afrin region against the People’s Defence Forces (YPG), Kurdish militants that it says are indistinguishable from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The PKK is an autonomy-seeking militant group in Turkey recognized as terrorists by the United States and European Union. However, the YPG is not yet recognised as a terrorist group internationally and has been helping U.S. forces fight ISIS in Syria.