ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — NATO isn't considering the actions of Turkey in Afrin to be within the organization's portfolio and pushed for those who are in Syria — like the United States and Turkey — to work towards a "political solution."
NATO boss Jens Stoltenberg spoke at the annual conference of the Norwegian Atlantic Committee in Leangkollen on Monday at a press conference with Norway Prime Minister Erna Solberg.
Stoltenberg described the events that have unfolded after Turkey crossed the international border "gruesome."
However, because NATO is not "on the ground," he expressed that Ankara should speak with countries which are also "on the ground, especially the USA."
NATO is a member of the US-led Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS that operates in Syria. They have supported the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), whose backbone has been the Kurdish-led People's Protection Units (YPG).
The YPG controls three cantons in Syria, including Afrin, where there have been no credible reports of ISIS.
US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said they support their strategic NATO ally Turkey "100 percent" when projectiles are fired across border and into Turkey.
The YPG, which has been trained, armed, and equipped by the Coalition, denies shelling Turkey.
Turkey's has claimed its assault on Afrin is to fight "terrorism" and protect its borders; however, Operation Olive Branch has resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties, which Turkey denies having targeted.
Ankara is backing Free Syrian Army (FSA) proxy militants in northwest Syria.
Stoltenberg echoed the need for a “political solution” in Syria.
"I have been in contact with Turkish authorities and [Turkish Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, and with the Americans,” Stoltenberg said, “but the most important thing is contact between those on the ground in Syria, to avoid a further escalation of a difficult situation.”
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported 68 civilian killed through Monday, while Afrin Hospital stated on Thursday that 104 civilians have been killed and 165 injured.
“We are deeply worried” about what’s happening, claimed Norway’s Solberg, while noting NATO-member Turkey's “right to defend itself” within international rule of law.