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Turkey's Erdogan Announces Imminent Siege of Syria's Afrin

Turkey's Erdogan Announces Imminent Siege of Syria's Afrin

The PYD/YPG has come to control large swaths of northern Syria, including Afrin, in the course of the Syrian war as it led the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) umbrella organisation in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group.

The two leaders spoke as Syrian state media reported that pro-Syrian government forces will begin entering Afrin.

Turkey sees the YPG's presence on its southern border as a direct threat, and observers have noted it would be more comfortable with a regime force deployed there.

The United States - Turkey's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally - has allied with the YPG elsewhere in Syria, providing it with arms and other support to fight the Islamic State jihadist group. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government views the YPG as an extension of the separatist Kurdish militia PKK, which Ankara classifies as a terrorist organization.

Speaking in the Jordanian capital of Amman, Mevlut Cavusoglu added that "if the regime is entering to protect the YPG, then no-one can stop us, stop Turkey or the Turkish soldiers".

The YPG hailed the arrival of the pro-government forces - which included militias allied to Assad but not the Syrian army itself - and said Damascus had heeded its call for help against Turkey.

Ankara views the YPG as a terrorist offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers´ Party (PKK), an insurgency in Turkey which is listed as a terror organisation by the U.S. and the European Union.

Cavusoglu, speaking in a televised news conference in Jordan, said Turkey would welcome the Syrian deployment if the goal were to clear the Kurds out of Afrin.

Authorities have been cracking down on protests and social media criticisms of its military operation into the Syrian Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin, accusing perpetrators of engaging in "terror propaganda".

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Turkey has supported rebels fighting to overthrow Assad throughout the seven-year civil war, but in recent years has focused more on trying to contain the Kurds. USA troops are not present in Afrin, but the United States is allied with both the YPG and Turkey, and has very much positioned itself against the Syrian government, demanding regime change.

Rebels retaliated by hitting some Damascus neighborhoods with mortar shells, killing one person and wounding six people, according to the state news agency SANA.

The Turkish army says 32 of its troops have been killed since the offensive was launched.

Cavusoglu said the operation, dubbed "Olive Branch", was aimed at "removing terrorists" from its southern border.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has called on Turkey dialogue directly with the Syrian government. The paper did not provide a source for the report.

The Observatory said Monday's airstrikes and shelling killed 44 people.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said at least 94 civilians have been killed during Turkey's offensive.

Syrian state TV reported that rebels fired dozens of mortar rounds and rockets at Damascus, wounding eight people.


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