Turkish military operation in Syria's Afrin has begun - Erdogan

Sheri Evans
January 21, 2018

"This is not a new "army" or conventional "border guard" force", the statement said. IS targets were also destroyed, it said. The YPG added that multiple civilians and YPG fighters have already been killed.

Turkey's Prime Minister said in a statement that land forces are expected to carry out "necessary operations" in Syria's Afrin on Sunday depending on developments in the region.

"Our worry is deep and the beating of war drums by the Turkish leadership is displeasing", Mekdad said. Ankara says that these two groups are affiliates of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) recognized as terrorist in Turkey.

But the YPG has been the key ally of Turkey's fellow North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member the United States in the fight against IS jihadists, playing a key role in pushing the extremists out of their Syrian strongholds.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said yesterday that the initiative does not mean to damage Turkish interests but rather to fight ISIS terrorism in northern and north-east Syria.

The PYD/PKK is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK terrorist group, which has been designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the USA and the EU.

Ankara however said it was not satisfied with the USA assurances.

Syria's deputy foreign minister says the country's air force will shoot down any Turkish fighter jets that attack Syria.

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"However, the United States' statements did not fully satisfy us", Cavusoglu told broadcaster CNN Turk in an interview.

The Syrian foreign ministry however strongly denied this, denouncing the operation as a "brutal Turkish aggression".

In a televised speech Monday, Erdogan threatened that "tomorrow, the day after, within a short period, we will get rid of terror nests one-by-one in Syria starting with Afrin and Manbij", also in northern Syria.

Earlier on Thursday, Turkey said it would seek Russia's approval for the operation, amid rising tensions with the US.

Turkey has been working closely with Russian Federation and Iran to end the long-running Syrian war, despite Moscow and Tehran supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad - and Ankara backing the anti-Assad opposition. But both Ankara and Moscow, as well as Tehran, have worked closely on a peace process in the previous year.

Meanwhile, Turkey has maneuvered to curtail a wide Russian-backed Syrian government military operation in Idlib - the largest remaining insurgent-held area in Syria.

A U.S. State Department official on Friday said military intervention by Turkey in Syria would undermine regional stability and would not help protect Turkey's border security.

As Turkey sends troops and tanks to the border, the operation threatens to spill into a wider Turkish-Kurdish confrontation inside the country.

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