There have been concerns that the Turkish military and US forces could end up in a direct confrontation as Ankara's aerial and ground personnel are pounding targets in the Syrian enclave of Afrin, controlled by Washington-backed Kurdish fighters.

US President Donald Trump has urged his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to tread cautiously in the ongoing military campaign against YPG Kurdish fighters to avoid the risk of a face-off with US forces stationed in the region.

The two leaders of Nato nations held a phone call on Wednesday (24 January) over the situation discussing what is happening in Syria. But, the accounts of what exactly took place in the conversation have been disputed with the Turkish side rejecting the White House's version.

"He [Trump] urged Turkey to deescalate, limit its military actions, and avoid civilian casualties," read an official statement released by the White House. "He urged Turkey to exercise caution and to avoid any actions that might risk conflict between Turkish and American forces."

Following the White House statement, sources from the Turkish presidency have told local news outlets that Washington's account did not exactly reflect the nature of the phone call.

"Trump did not express concern over a so-called escalating violence as a result of Turkey's anti-terror operation in Afrin. There was merely an exchange of views between the presidents," a source, who did not wish to be identified, was quoted as saying by the Daily Sabah.

The US has deployed 2,000 special forces in Syria's Manbij, located about 100km east of Afrin, mostly in training roles to back the Kurdish insurgents in the fight against Islamic State (Isis). Kurdish fighters, whom Turkey considers "terrorists", are possibly the closest partners for the US in the anti-Isis battle.

Erdogan has made it clear that Turkish forces would not be scaled back and will be ordered to push through Manbij to pound Kurdish positions. "With the Olive Branch operation, we have once again thwarted the game of those sneaky forces whose interests in the region are different. Starting in Manbij, we will continue to thwart their game," Erdogan said in a speech.

"Clearly we are very alert to what is happening, specifically in the area of Manbij because that is where our... coalition forces are," Colonel Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the US-led coalition, told Reuters news agency. "The coalition forces that are in that area have an inherent right to defend themselves and will do so if necessary."

Turkey Syria Kurdish Afrin
Turkish soldiers sit on tanks gathered in Hatay province, near the Syrian border, on 24 January 2018 Umit Bektas/Reuters