Turkey threatens further action against Syrian Kurds despite calm

Turkey on Wednesday denied reaching a ceasefire with Kurdish-led forces in northern Syria and threatened further action against them, although the Kurds said both sides were continuing to abide by a truce.

A US-led coalition against Islamic State had on Tuesday welcomed the "calm" between its two key allies in the fight against the jihadists in Syria after days of clashes, although it would not confirm claims by Kurdish-linked forces that it had brokered a ceasefire.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman said that the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) would remain a target as long as they were present on the west bank of the Euphrates river, where they recently helped capture the city of Minbij from Islamic State.

Military operations would continue and the YPG should withdraw east of the Euphrates as soon as possible, Ibrahim Kalin said.

Erdogan has previously said that Turkey's operations inside Syria, launched last week, are aimed at both Islamic State and the YPG. Ankara describes the YPG as terrorists due to their links with banned Kurdish rebels operating on Turkish soil.

But the YPG, which has been the main ground force backed by the US against Islamic State extremists in Syria, denied any of its own units were in the area, saying a truce between its local allies and Turkey was holding.

"The situation there is calm today and both parties, and I mean here the Jarabulus Military Council and Turkey, are abiding by the truce," YPG spokesman Redur Xelil told dpa.

Xelil insisted that the YPG itself was not involved in the clashes with Syrian rebels and Turkish forces in the area between Minbij and the border town of Jarabulus, which Turkey and the rebels captured from Islamic State last week.

The YPG participated in operations to capture Minbij from Islamic State earlier this month but handed it over to local military and civil councils once the jihadis were expelled, he said.

"The People's Protection Units were not present at all [any more] in those areas for Turkey to use their presence as a pretext," he added.

US Central Command chief General Joseph Votel on Tuesday said the Kurdish components in the alliance that captured Minbij have "lived up to their commitment" to withdraw back east of the Euphrates, a key Turkish demand.

Turkey's Europe Minister Omer Celik earlier dismissed claims of a ceasefire between Ankara and the Kurdish-led forces, saying it would be wrong to evaluate the situation as if Turkey and the YPG-linked Democratic Union Party (PYD) "were equal and there was an agreement between them."

"PYD's activities in northern Syria benefit terror groups, not the Kurdish people," Celik told the state-run Anadolu news agency.

Turkey launched its forces last week into northern Syria, along with hundreds of Syrian rebels it had transferred from the west of the country to the northern border region.

Backed by Turkish armour and airstrikes, the rebels quickly seized Jarabulus from Islamic State fighters, but much of the ground they have taken since then was held by forces linked to the Kurdish-led, US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

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