U.S. does not want to see military operations in northwest Syria -White House

John Kirby, National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications, takes part in White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre’s press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., August 2, 2022. REUTERS/Leah Millis

WASHINGTON, Dec 7 (Reuters) - The United States does not want Turkey to pursue military attacks in northwest Syria, even if it recognizes Turkey's right to defend itself, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said on Wednesday.

Turkey has ramped up its shelling and air strikes on northern Syria in recent weeks and has said it is preparing for a possible ground invasion against Syrian Kurdish fighters that it dubs terrorists but who make up the bulk of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

"We don't want to see military operations conducted in northwest Syria that are going to put civilians at greater risk than they already are, put in peril our troops and our personnel in Syria, or our counter ISIS (Islamic State) mission," Kirby told reporters.

The SDF, which helped defeat Islamic State jihadists in Syria, said on Friday it had stopped all joint counterterrorism operations with the United States and other allies as a result of Turkish bombardment on its area of control.

The U.S. military has confirmed the pause in operations.

The SDF has long warned that fighting off a new Turkish incursion would divert resources from protecting a prison holding IS fighters or fighting IS sleeper cells still waging hit-and-run attacks in Syria.

The Turkish bombardment, using both long-range weapons and air strikes, has frustrated its NATO ally Washington.

The United States recognizes that Turkey has a right to defend itself, especially against terrorism, Kirby said.

"We recognize the threat that the Turkish people are under, but we don't believe that ... this idea of military operations in northwest Syria is the best way to get at that threat," he said.

Reporting by Steve Holland and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Franklin Paul and Crispian Balmer

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