US urges Russia, Turkey to avoid 'escalation' over Syria: State Dept
WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu (R), AFP Photo; Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (L), REUTERS Photo.The United States on Feb. 15 urged Turkey and Russia to avoid any further escalation after the two traded verbal blows over their respective military actions in war-torn Syria.
"It is important that the Russians and Turks speak directly, and take measures to prevent escalation," a State Department spokesperson told AFP.
Tensions with Turkey have soared over Moscow's backing of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russia's air campaign against what it claims are "terrorist" targets in the country.
The intensifying war of words has dampened hopes that a proposed cessation of hostilities will take hold this week.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu earlier accused Russia of acting as a "terrorist organization" in Syria, and worsening the refugee crisis on Turkey's doorstep through its "barbaric attacks on civilians."
Turkey has long backed Assad's ouster and like other Western nations accuses Russia of predominantly bombing Syrian rebel groups backed by Washington and its allies instead of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Russia meanwhile described Turkey's shelling of Kurdish and Syrian regime positions in the north of the country as a "provocative" action.
Ankara has vowed to continue the strikes on Democratic Union Party (PYD) militants, who it accuses of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
Washington has found itself in a highly uncomfortable position on the issue: it is allied with Turkey as part of the US-led coalition against ISIL and in NATO, but also supports the Syrian Kurds.
Likewise, the United States is Russia's partner on the Syria peace process, but has spent the past 10 days demanding an end to its strikes in northern Syria.