Pentagon chief urges Turkey to stay focused on fighting Islamic State

Mattis made the remark during a meeting with his Turkish counterpart Nurettin Canikli

Image Credits: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis urged Turkey to remain focused on fighting Islamic State militants in Syria, a Pentagon statement on Thursday said.

Relations between the United States and Turkey, allies within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, have become frayed by their diverging interests in the Syrian civil war.

Washington is focused on defeating the jihadist group while Ankara, keen to prevent Syria’s Kurds from gaining autonomy and fuelling Kurdish insurgents on its soil, last month launched a military incursion into the Afrin region of Syria to sweep the Kurdish YPG militia from its southern border zone.

Mattis made the remark during a meeting with his Turkish counterpart Nurettin Canikli on Wednesday on the sidelines of a NATO meeting.

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