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U.S., France urge Turkey to stop shelling Kurdish forces in northern Syria

Syria calls on the U.N. Security Council to intervene

CNN  — 

Turkey’s defense minister said his country has no intention of sending ground troops into Syria amid international concern over Ankara’s shelling of armed Kurdish groups in the war-torn country.

Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz made the comments Sunday in Turkey’s semiofficial Anadolu news agency.

Turkey bombarded positions of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, in the town of Azaz in the north of Syria’s Aleppo governorate over the weekend. It said it was a response to shelling from YPG positions.

Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist group while the United States backs it in the fight against ISIS.

The U.S. and France called on Ankara to halt the shelling, which killed two Kurdish fighters and wounded seven others, according to the London-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden told Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu that the U.S. was discouraging Kurdish forces from exploiting the chaos in northern Syria to seize additional territory near the Turkish border. Biden urged Turkey to show reciprocal restraint.

Syria condemned Turkey’s actions Sunday and sent letters to the U.N. Security Council, calling on it to intervene, according to Syrian state news agency SANA.

Turkey and the Kurdish forces shared a serious threat from ISIS just to the east of Azaz., U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said.

“We continue to encourage all parties to focus on this common threat, which has not subsided, and to work toward a cessation of hostilities, as agreed in Munich,” he said.

Syrian opposition: 58 massacres of civilians by Russia

The upheaval in northern Syria stems in large part from a major Syrian government offensive, backed by Russian air power, on Aleppo. The key city has been fought over for years by regime and opposition forces.

Global figures gathered in Germany for the Munich Security Conference criticized Russia’s actions in Syria, widely viewed to have pushed the conflict in favor of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

World powers agreed to a cessation of hostilities in Syria, but together with Syrian opposition groups said Russia was undermining prospects of implementing it by bombing civilians.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Russia’s strikes in Syria had been largely “against legitimate opposition groups.”

Riad Hijab, former Syrian prime minister and head of the main Syrian opposition group, the High Negotiations Committee, said there had been “58 clear massacres committed by the Russian military against Syrian civilians alone in the last 10 days.”

Moscow denies the accusations.

CNN’s Yousuf Basil, Arwa Damon, Salma Abdelaziz, Kevin Bohn, Annie Ramos, Kevin Liptak, Hande Atay and Radina Gigova contributed to this report.