By Safvan Allahverdi
WASHINGTON (AA) - The U.S. on Monday acknowledged it takes “seriously" Turkey’s legitimate security concerns, amid Ankara’s ongoing military operation against terror groups in Afrin, Syria.
"We hear and take seriously Turkey’s legitimate security concerns and are committed to working with Turkey as a NATO ally," White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at a news conference.
Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch on Saturday to remove PYD/PKK and Daesh terrorists from the northern Syrian city.
The operation is to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region, as well as to protect Syrians from the oppression and cruelty of terrorists, according to Turkish General Staff.
Sanders urged "all parties" to remain focused on defeating Daesh, de-escalating the Syrian conflict and protecting innocent civilians, while claiming the Afrin operation distracts from efforts to ensure the lasting defeat of Daesh.
Earlier in same day, Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, while inspecting troops in the southern province of Hatay, emphasized that the military operations are to protect Turkey's rights within boundaries of international law, without harming civilians or property.
He also said that along with PYD/PKK and YPG elements in the region, the Daesh terrorist group is also present
"We want to ensure that [Bashar] Assad’s brutal regime cannot return to Afrin, and we will continue working diplomatically to end the Syrian civil war," Sanders said, urging Turkey to exercise restraint in its military actions.
The U.S. supports the PYD/PKK -- considered by Ankara as the Syrian offshoot of the PKK terror organization that has waged a more than 30-year war against the Turkish state. The terror campaign has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths.
American support for the terror group has long vexed Ankara as Washington views the PYD/PKK-led umbrella group, SDF, as a "reliable partner" in its fight against Daesh and continues to provide it with arms and equipment in the face of strong objections from Turkey.