By Safvan Allahverdi
WASHINGTON (AA) - The U.S. is "very concerned" about the situation in northwest Syria, the State Department said on Sunday, amid Turkey's ongoing military operation against terror groups in Afrin region.
"The United States is very concerned about the situation in northwest Syria, especially the plight of innocent civilians, who are now faced with an escalation in fighting," Heather Nauert, the State Department’s spokeswoman, said in a statement.
Recalling the phone conversation between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with his Turkish and Russian counterparts Saturday, Nauert said the U.S. “continues to be supportive of addressing the legitimate security concerns of Turkey” as a NATO ally and critical partner in the effort to defeat ISIS [Daesh]."
"However, we urge Turkey to exercise restraint and ensure that its military operations remain limited in scope and duration and scrupulous to avoid civilian casualties," she noted, saying that "all parties" should remain focused on defeating Daesh.
"Now is the time for great nations to work together to secure a peaceful stability for the people of Syria," she added.
Turkey on Saturday launched "Operation Olive Branch" to remove PKK/KCK/PYD-YPG and Daesh terror groups from Afrin.
Turkey has long protested against the U.S. support for the PYD -- the Syrian offshoot of the terrorist PKK -- and its military wing the YPG.
Washington has called the terrorist group a "reliable ally" in its fight against Daesh in Syria even though its mother organization, the PKK, is listed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the U.S., and the EU, having waged a terror campaign against Turkey for more than 30 years, killing nearly 40,000 people.
The Turkish General Staff earlier said the operation was being carried out under the framework of Turkey’s rights based on international law, UN Security Council’s decisions, self-defense rights under the UN charter and respect to Syria's territorial integrity.
The military also said only terrorist targets were being destroyed and "utmost importance" was being given to not harm any civilian.