World Bulletin / News Desk
The U.S. will continue to work with Turkey at "the highest levels and all the way down through the military level", Mattis told reporters during a visit to the Pentagon's press office.
"We will continue to work with our NATO ally [Turkey], and I will see their Minister of Defense in Brussels next week."
Mattis was referring to Turkey’s plan to launch a military operation in Manbij, a strategically important city west of the Euphrates in northern Syria, as part of Operation Olive Branch.
Manbij lies northeast of Aleppo but just south of the Turkish border.
Washington has voiced concern about the safety of U.S. troops in Manbij amid Turkey's ongoing operation in northeastern Syria. There are about 2,000 American soldiers in Manbij.
Mattis said there has been no change in terms of Turkey's pressure on Manbij in response to a question about Turkey's concern over the presence of PYD/PKK terrorists there.
"Obviously, there is a lot of concern there because of what we heard out of Ankara. But right now, our goal is to keep the pressure on [through] the counter ISIS campaign and keep the campaign going, Mattis said, describing Turkey's planned military operation in Manbij as a "distraction" from the fight against ISIL.
Describing Turkey as "the only NATO ally with an active insurgency inside its border with the PKK terrorist group," Mattis said the U.S. is working with Turkey on its legitimate security concerns not just with the PKK but also along the Syrian border, which has been turned into a battlefield by the Bashar al-Assad regime.
"Turkey has legitimate concerns, and the U.S. is working with Ankara. But at the same time, Washington wants to stay on ISIL right now," he added.
Amid the operation, the PYD/PKK has targeted civilians in cross-border attacks on Turkish neighborhoods, martyring at least five people and injuring more than 100 through mortar shells, artillery and missiles, according to Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.
In addition to border security, the Turkish General Staff says Operation Olive Branch is meant to protect Syrians from terrorist oppression and cruelty.
Following the Afrin operation, Turkey plans to clear Manbij and some other areas from PYD/PKK terrorists.
The U.S. supports the PYD/PKK, which is 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.
The PYD/PKK is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK, which has been designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU.
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 ISIL and continues to provide it with arms and equipment in the face of strong objections from Turkey.
President Donald Trump repeated his call, meanwhile, for arming some of America's teachers and claimed the controversial proposal was increasingly drawing support.
Clashes oppose Israeli forces and local residents in Dehisha camp
Economic penalties aimed at curbing Pyongyang's sanctions-evasions practices that facilitate coal, fuel transports
Will of Turkish Cypriot people must be included in gas drilling process in the Mediterranean, says Turkish Cypriot premier
Embassy opening will coincide with Israel's 70th anniversary, State Department spokesperson says
Russia stalls a vote on a ceasefire allowing humanitarian access in Syria, US envoy to UN says
Canadian foreign minister says targeting civilians is violation of international humanitarian law
Heather Nauert reiterates Turkish military operation in Afrin would cause a "distraction"
International law continues to view West Bank and East Jerusalem as 'occupied territories'
Hamas blasts Palestinian president's calls to resume talks with Israeli occupiers
Some say transport union leader Hugo Moyano is promoting the strike in a bid to avoid probe
Video stating Florida school shooting survivor is an actor becomes top trending video on site before it is removed
Coalition of opposition parties say elections called by government do not offer them any guarantees
Twelve Palestinian lawmakers remain in Israeli custody
Israeli army frequently carries out wide-ranging arrest campaigns in the West Bank