Sunday, 19 May, 2019

Turkey vows to oust US-backed Kurds in Syria

GettyImages-906375794 Turkey vows to oust US-backed Kurds in Syria
Patty Aguilar | 23 January, 2018, 16:59

The Turkish offensive on Afrin, codenamed Operation Olive Branch, started on Saturday and has heightened tensions in the already complicated Syrian conflict, threatening to further strain ties between North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies Turkey and the United States.

A joint inquiry of the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) determined that the Syrian government used the nerve agent sarin in an April 4, 2017, attack and also used several times chlorine as a weapon.

The UN Security Council held a closed-door emergency meeting here on Monday on the situation in Syria, which is "at a crossroads", as described by a French envoy to the UN.

On Sunday, the U.S., which Ankara accuses of arming Kurdish forces in Syria, also said it is "very concerned" about the ongoing operation.

It sees the militia as an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which has waged a bloody insurgency in southeastern Turkey since 1984.

The United States has supported Kurds in their fight against Islamic State. Erdogan on Monday repeated his criticism of Washington's support for the Kurdish militia, saying the US should have partnered with Turkey against the Islamic State.

"We are in the framework of looking at the possibility of sending more military forces to Afrin", SDF spokesman Kino Gabriel said, as cited by Reuters. Ankara says the U.S. did not consult it over BSF, and insists Washington broke its promise to no longer arm YPG, whom Turkey views as separatist terrorists. The Turkish state has fought against the PKK for decades, and routinely calls the group and its allies terrorist organisations. The Observatory said Turkey-backed troops were trying once again to enter Afrin.

The operation also includes air strikes on the district, threatening to create another humanitarian disaster in the region. Turkey says that it will create a 30-km deep "security zone" inside the Syrian border, and announces plans to push the offensive further east. Turkish aircraft are bombing the city as Turkish and allied forces have moved across the border.

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It was the second Turkish town to come under attack.

It also said that it had retaliated against Turkey's ground offensive with rocket fire on Turkish border areas.

He warned that the Turkish attack on Kurdish troops would only benefit the remaining fragments of Isil and give them space to regroup.

"Whether it is Manbij, Afrin, the east of the Euphrates or even threats from northern Iraq, it doesn't matter", he said.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said a ground offensive could begin Sunday, but the state run Anadolu News Agency reported that Syrian forces backed by Ankara had already penetrated the Kurdish enclave. Turkey has long accused the USA of going back on a promise that the militants would withdraw from the town.

The YPG has denied that any of the Afrin region is under Turkish control. The city of Afrin is being bombarded by Turkish airstrikes.

German officials on Monday confirmed that Turkey had purchased over 750 tanks from Germany in the 1980s, 1990s and late 2000s, but said it had no information about the use of the tanks in Syria aside from photographs circulating in the media.

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