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Syria conflict: Turkey shells Kurdish militia

6Turkey has shelled a Kurdish militia in northern Syria and demanded it retreat from territory it has seized, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.

The US urged Turkey to stop the shelling and focus on fighting the group Islamic State (IS).

Meanwhile Turkey’s foreign minister said Turkey was mulling a ground invasion of Syria with Saudi forces.

On Thursday world powers agreed to push for a cessation of hostilities in Syria within a week.

Among the targets shelled by Turkey was the Menagh airbase, which was seized on Thursday from Syrian Islamist rebels by a Kurdish militia group known as the YPG.

Speaking on Turkish TV, PM Davutoglu warned that Turkey would retaliate if the YPG did not leave the airbase, which lies south of the town of Azaz and near the Turkish border.

Turkey sees the YPG as being linked with Kurdish guerrillas from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a campaign against security forces in Turkey itself for decades.

Mr Davutoglu accused the Kurdish militiamen of attacking ethnic Arabs and Turkmen in what amounted to “war crimes”.

US State Department spokesman John Kirby also urged the YPG not to “take advantage of a confused situation” by seizing new territory.

Mr Kirby said Turkey and the YPG were both threatened by IS, whose fighters were located to the east of Azaz.

“We continue to encourage all parties to focus on this common threat, which has not subsided,” he said.

On Saturday, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said it was possible that troops from his country and Saudi Arabia might participate in a ground operation against IS forces.

Saudi Arabia will send war planes to the Turkish airbase of Incirlik to carry out air strikes on IS militants, Mr Cavusoglu said.

The US has so far ruled out a ground invasion of Syria, while Moscow has warned against such a development, saying it could lead to a world war.

World powers have instead agreed a tentative deal to try to bring about a cessation of hostilities and allow more access for humanitarian aid.

Under the plan, efforts will be made to try to make urgent aid deliveries to besieged and hard-to-reach areas in Syria. Steps will also be taken to work towards an eventual ceasefire and implementation of a UN-backed plan for political transition in Syria.

The halt would not apply to the battle against jihadist groups IS and al-Nusra Front.

However, neither the Syrian government nor the rebels were involved in the deal and both have since vowed to continue fighting.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Friday that he intended to retake “the whole country” from rebels.

Russia accused

Syrian government forces, backed by Russian air strikes, have almost encircled rebels in parts of the northern city of Aleppo.

However, Russia has come under pressure from Western countries over civilian deaths in Syria, with France and the US urging greater caution.