Erdogan: Pro-regime groups in Afrin issue 'closed'

"On February 21, during an operation in the Semdinli district of the Hakkari province and northern Iraq, two our military comrades died as a result of the explosion of a booby trap staged by members of the separatist terrorist organization (PKK)". Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held two separate phone conversations with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to warn against such a move.

Turkey has repeated its warnings about an escalation of tension in Syria's northern region of Afrin, where it has been attacking the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), saying any group coming to the help of the Kurds in the region would be considered a "legitimate target" for the Turkish military.

Syria has repeatedly denounced the violation of its territorial sovereignty since the Turkish military operation began.

Turkey has been waging "Operation Olive Branch" against Syria's Afrin since January 20 in a bid to eliminate the YPG. "They will pay a heavy price", the Reuters news agency quoted him as telling an news conference.

London's representative of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the political branch of the YPG, Alan Shemo, said that Syrian regime forces will facilitate the protection of Afrin's borders.

He stressed that if the Syrian forces entered Afrin to protect the YPG, "no one would be able to stop the Turkish forces". But many argue Turkey would need Russia's backing in order to avoid confronting Syrian troops along with the YPG.

Images were aired of "popular forces" loyal to President Bashar Assad moving toward Afrin city in pick-up trucks equipped with anti-aircraft guns and armoured personals carriers (APCs), Efe reported.

It gave no details, but it is believed to be a reference to an incident in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour on 7 February, when the USA military said it had killed an estimated 100 pro-Syrian government fighters in response to an attack on an allied, Kurdish-led militia force battling Islamic State militants in the area.

  • Rogelio Becker