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WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump called President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey on Wednesday and urged him to exercise caution and to avoid any actions that might risk conflict between Turkish and American forces in Syria.

The Turkish ground and air offensive has raised international concern, but Washington has sent mixed messages.

On Tuesday, the White House issued a statement that the United States was easing off its support for the Syrian Kurds.

But later, the Pentagon issued a separate statement that Washington would continue to stand by the Kurds.

And the White House announced on Wednesday that President Trump telephoned Mr Erodgan and relayed concerns that escalating violence in Afrin risked undercutting “our shared goals” in Syria.

He urged Turkey to limit its military actions and avoid civilian casualties.

Mr Trump reiterated that both nations must focus on the shared goal of achieving the lasting defeat of IS.

Both presidents welcomed the return of more than 100,000 Syrian refugees back to their country in the wake of the defeat of IS and pledged to continue to help people return home, the White House said.

President Trump invited closer bilateral cooperation to address Turkey’s legitimate security concerns. The leaders discussed the need to stabilise a unified Syria that poses no threats to its neighbours, including Turkey.

President Trump also expressed concern about “destructive and false rhetoric coming from Turkey, and about United States citizens and local employees detained under the prolonged state of emergency in Turkey,” the White House said.

The two leaders pledged to improve the strategic partnership, particularly in fostering regional stability and combating terrorism in all its forms, including IS, the Kurdistan Workers Party, Al Qaeda and “Iranian-sponsored terrorism”, the White House added.

Published in Dawn, January 25th, 2018