Turkey denies that its bombings in Iraq and Syria could affect US-led international coalition

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Archive – Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar – -/PPI via ZUMA Wire/dpa

The Turkish government denied Friday that its bombing raids against Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria could cause damage to U.S.-led international coalition forces, after the Pentagon said its troops in Syria are «directly threatened» by the Turkish offensive.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar stressed that «it is totally ruled out that we will cause harm to coalition forces or civilians,» Turkish state news agency Anatolia reported. «We have only one target, which is terrorists,» he said, before adding that Ankara «has done and will continue to do whatever is necessary to put an end to terrorism and ensure the country’s security.»

Pentagon spokesman Patrick Ryder said Wednesday that «recent airstrikes in Syria have directly threatened the safety and security of U.S. personnel who are working in Syria with local partners to defeat Islamic State.» «In addition, uncoordinated military actions threaten Iraq’s sovereignty,» he zinged.

On the other hand, Akar has raised the number of suspected members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Kurdish-Syrian militia People’s Protection Units (YPG) «neutralized» since the start of the offensive to 326. Turkey uses the term «neutralized» to refer to suspects having been killed, captured or surrendered to the authorities. Since this is shelling, it implies that Ankara considers them dead.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stressed Wednesday that the new bombing campaign against Kurdish groups in Iraq and Syria «is just the beginning» and reiterated that Ankara will launch ground operations «when it deems appropriate.» He also said he did not rule out a conversation with his Syrian counterpart, Bashar al-Assad, to address the situation.

The Turkish operation, dubbed ‘Sword Claw’ was launched following the Nov. 13 bombing in Istanbul, which left six dead and which Turkey blames on the PKK. However, both the group and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – a coalition of militias led by the YPG and backed by the international coalition – have disassociated themselves from what happened and have expressed their condolences to the victims.