Turkey ‘will not stop if pro-regime forces enter Afrin to protect YPG’: Turkish FM
If pro-regime [Syrian] forces enter the northern Syrian town of Afrin, where Turkey is carrying out a military operation, with a motive to help Turkey’s target – People’s Protection Units (YPG)—Turkish forces will respond, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Feb. 19.
“There is no problem if Syrian forces enter Afrin to get rid of the YPG or the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party]. But if they enter Afrin to protect the YPG, then no one can stop Turkish forces,” Çavuşoğlu said at a joint press conference in Jordan.
Syrian state television channel al-Ikhbariya TV said on Feb. 19 that pro-Syrian government forces would soon enter Afrin.
The operation will begin “within hours,” said al-Ikhbariya TV, citing its own correspondent.
The report followed claims by the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) that Syrian Kurdish forces and the Damascus government have reached an agreement for the Syrian army to enter the Afrin region.
On Jan. 20, the Turkish military, alongside elements of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), launched “Operation Olive Branch” to clear the YPG, the armed wing of the PYD, from Afrin. A total of 1,641 militants have been “neutralized” since the start of the operation, according to the Turkish military.
Turkey views the YPG as a terrorist group for its links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Badran Jia Kurd, an adviser to the Kurdish-led administration in northern Syria, told Reuters that army troops would be deployed along some border positions and could enter the region within the next two days.
There was no immediate comment from the Syrian military.
Although Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government and the YPG have mostly avoided direct conflict, they have occasionally clashed.
The Syrian government has allowed some YPG militants to reach Afrin through its territory, representatives of both sides have told Reuters in recent weeks.
Russia, the main supporter of the al-Assad regime, cooperates with Turkey in diplomatic efforts to find a solution to the ongoing war in Syria.