Turkey begins first wave of artillery fire on Kurds in Afrin

Turkey dispatched its military chief to Moscow on Thursday, seeking approval for an air campaign in Syria's Kurdish-controlled Afrin region, although Damascus warned it could shoot down any Turkish planes in its skies.

Turkey has reacted angrily to reports of a Kurdish-led border force in Syria, calling it an "army of terror" and vowing to crush it.

The comments - reported by Turkey's Anadolu news agency - came after senior Turkish officials threatened an imminent attack against the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).

On Saturday, Ankara redeployed heavy military equipment to the border with Syria and shelled positions of the Syrian Kurds in the area of Afrin in northern Syria.

The United States has around 2,000 military personnel in Syria, deployed as part of the USA -led coalition's campaign against Islamic State.

In Washington, the USA has recognized Turkey's concerns.

"Our direct mistrust of the United States continues".

US-led coalition spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon said its forces weren't active in Syria's Afrin area.

Turkey began its first wave of artillery fire targeting Kurdish fighters in Afrin, Syria on Tuesday night, said an Al Arabiya reporter.

He described the forces formed by the USA as a "an army of terrorists created by the United States on the Turkish borders", vowing to destroy it.

The United States insisted Wednesday it does not intend to create an "army" or conventional border guards.

Turkey considers the Syrian YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militant group, which has fought a bloody insurgency in southeast Turkey for more than three decades.

Asked whether he planned to discuss the Kurdish-led border force with U.S. President Donald Trump, Erdogan said he had no plans to call the U.S. leader.

Tillerson says he told Cavusoglu on January 17 that the "entire situation has been misportrayed" and "misdescribed" by "some people" who "misspoke".

Yildirim said the U.S had made contradictory statements on the issue over the past several days, which he named "signs of confusion".

Cavusoglu said despite their disagreements over Syria - including on the future of Moscow's ally President Bashar al-Assad - Turkey has been working with Russian Federation on the issue. "We have to be in coordination with them for an aerial operation", Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a televised interview on Thursday.

"There is a possibility that this pressure is part of an agreement with the Russians to return the city to Syrian government control", Mr Hamo said.

"The problem now is that the campaign against ISIS has entered a new phase, that the USA military is posturing toward a long-term force and training a YPG militia is a direct challenge to Turkey", Meral added.

The growing prospect of a Turkish military confrontation with USA -backed troops has strained already troubled relations between the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies.

  • Leroy Wright