Turkish Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu diplomat in Tehran for talks on Syria operation
TEHRAN / ANKARA
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu paid a surprise visit to the Iranian capital Tehran on Feb. 7 to hold talks on Turkey’s ongoing “Operation Olive Branch” in the northern Syrian district of Afrin.
He was due to hold talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on the Afrin operation, ongoing since Jan. 20, Turkish Presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın told reporters in Ankara.
Rouhani had criticized the Turkish military operation on Feb. 6 at a press conference in Tehran.
“The entry of a foreign army onto the soil of another country should only be done with the authorization of that country ... In principle, this action is not justified and we would like it to end as quickly as possible. Our Turkish friends are being killed, others are being killed, Kurds are being killed, it is bringing no results,” he said.
Rouhani’s office also announced on Feb. 6 that the Iranian leader, in a phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, stressed that the Turkish offensive “does not serve the interests of any country in the region.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Feb. 7 that Putin, Rouhani and Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan are in regular contact to discuss the conflict in Syria. The three leaders do not rule out a formal meeting in the coming period but no such plan is currently in place, he added.
23 villages, 11 hills taken: Turkish military
“At least 999” Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants have been “neutralized” since the beginning of the operation in Syria’s northwestern district of Afrin, the Turkish General Staff stated yesterday, state-run Anadolu Agency reported. The authorities often use the word “neutralized” in their statements to imply that the militants in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.
In a statement, the military said the Turkish Armed Forces had neutralized 29 more militants in airstrikes carried out overnight.
Meanwhile, Turkish soldiers and Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters uncovered a four-kilometer-long ditch used by YPG militants in a village they captured during the ongoing offensive.
On the 18th day of the operation, a 3.5-meter-deep and 3-meter-wide ditch was discovered linking the village of Dikmetaş, under the control of the YPG, with opposition-held Yazıbağ.
Opposition forces subsequently filled the ditch with soil to make it unusable.
A total of 36 locations, including 23 villages and 11 strategic hills, have been taken by Turkey so far in the operation.
The Turkish Armed Forces also reportedly foiled an YPG attack on Feb. 7, with tanks hitting an explosives-laden truck that was advancing toward an FSA position after troops spotted it through thermal cameras.