Russia and the US call for de-escalation amid Turkish cross-border incursions against Kurdish positions in Syria and Iraq.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan flagged a possible ground offensive in northern Syria and Iraq after Ankara forces launched cross-border airstrikes on what they said were sites used by Kurdish groups they blame for an attack in the Istanbul center.
The escalation of tensions has sparked global concern, with Russia and the United States urging Ankara on Monday to show restraint.
Speaking to reporters on a flight home from Qatar after attending the World Cup opening, Erdogan said Turkey’s ongoing military campaign in northern Syria and northern Iraq “is not limited to an operation aerial”.
“The competent authorities, our Defense Ministry and the chief of staff will decide together the level of force that our ground forces should use,” he said.
“We will make pay those who bother us in our territory.”
The Turkish operation, dubbed Claw Sword, was launched on Sunday, a week after a bomb blast on Istanbul’s Istiklal Avenue killed six people and injured 81.
Ankara blamed the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Group (PKK) and affiliated Syrian Kurdish groups for the November 13 attack, though the Kurdish fighters have denied any involvement.
The Turkish Defense Ministry said the Claw Sword, which also included ground-fired weapons, killed 184 fighters and destroyed 89 targets, including dugouts, bunkers, caves and tunnels.
Meanwhile, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported rocket fire from Syrian territory, with two people killed on Monday when the shells hit the Turkish border district of Karkamis.
The United States, which relied mainly on Kurdish militia forces to defeat the ISIL (ISIS) group in Syria, called for a de-escalation.
“The United States expresses its deepest condolences for the loss of civilian life in Syria and Turkey,” said a statement from Ned Price, the State Department spokesman.
“We urge de-escalation in Syria to protect civilian lives and support the common goal of defeating ISIS. We continue to oppose any uncoordinated military action in Iraq that violates Iraq’s sovereignty,” he said.
Russia also called on Turkey to refrain from the use of “excessive” military force.
Alexander Lavrentyev, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy to Syria, told reporters that Turkey had not notified Moscow in advance about its attacks on its neighbors.
Speaking in the Kazakh capital, which is hosting a tripartite meeting between Russia, Turkey and Iran on Syria, Lavrentyev said he hoped “to convince our Turkish colleagues to refrain from resorting to excessive use of force on Syrian soil.”
“Russia has done for months…everything possible to prevent any large-scale ground operations,” he added.
Erdogan has threatened a new large-scale military operation against PKK-affiliated forces in northern Syria for months, but Russia, Iran and many Western countries have warned against the plans.
Turkey has previously carried out ground military operations in Syria focused on areas across the border and captured vast swaths of territory.
The Turkish government believes that a so-called “safe zone” along the Syrian side of the border is necessary to allow the voluntary return of the Syrian refugees it hosts, as well as stop groups Ankara considers affiliated with the PKK, such as the Democratic Forces. Syrians (SDF), backed by the United States, attack Turkey.