Turkish military enters Syrian province after days of airstrikes

22 January, 2018, 02:29 | Author: Kim Reid
  • Turkish troops cross into Syria’s Kurdish-held Afrin region

Turkey, which is backing the Free Syrian Army rebel factions in northern Syria, wants to create a 30-km (19 mile) "safe zone" in the region, broadcaster HaberTurk quoted the prime minister, Binali Yildirim, as saying.

The attacks follow weeks of warnings against the YPG in Syria from Erdogan and his ministers.

The YPG's growing strength across a swath of northern Syria has alarmed Ankara, which fears the creation of an independent Kurdish state on its southern border.

"But this [the results of the Euphrates Shield] does not mean that Ankara will abandon its plans to clear Syria from Kurdish terrorists in the long run", Volkan Ozdemir, director of Turkey's Institute for Energy Markets and Policies (EPPEN), commented to RBK in March 2017.

The military said it had hit 153 targets so far, including shelters and hideouts used by Kurdish militants.

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The PKK, which has waged a rebellion in the Turkish southeast for more than three decades, is regarded as a terror group not just by Ankara and but also its Western allies.

"France asks for an urgent meeting of the Security Council", Le Drian said on his Twitter feed. Turkish-backed rebels and United States forces have been trading fire there, USA defense officials said.

Kurdish rockets meanwhile hit the Turkish border town of Kilis overnight, and there were reports of at least one fatality in another border town, Reyhanli.

US support for the Kurdish militia has been a cause of perpetual conflict between Ankara and Washington, which has backed the Kurdish militia.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson later said the "entire situation has been mis-portrayed, mis-described", admitting "we owe them (Turkey) an explanation".

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The YPG said a number of people had been wounded in the air strikes.

The operation pits Turkey against Kurdish fighters allied with the United States at a time when ties between Ankara and Washington - North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies and members of the coalition against Islamic State - appear dangerously close to a breaking point.

The Turkish attack on Kurdish forces in Afrin will likely cast a shadow over the upcoming Syrian National Dialogue Congress, which is being brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran for a political settlement of the Syrian conflict. Washington has backed the YPG, seeing it as an effective partner in the fight against Islamic State. On Sunday, President Bashar Assad condemned the "brutal aggression" on Afrin but didn't repeat the threat. At least 70 Turkish soldiers were killed, most in battles with IS militants, which have since been driven from almost all the territory it once held in Syria. He said Turkey has always supported "terrorists" in Syria.

"The continuing crisis in Afrin may boost terrorist groups again in the northern parts of Syria", Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said according to Iran's official IRNA news agency.

Turkey's military plans seem to have been accelerated by an announcement from the U.S. that it will help the SDF alliance build a new "border security force" to prevent the return of IS.

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