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1ST LEAD Erdogan: Turkey to lay siege on Syria's Afrin in days to come By Ergin Hava and Weedah Hamzah, dpa

Europe
20.02.2018
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Istanbul (dpa) - Turkish troops and allied rebels will soon lay siege to Syria‘s Kurdish-held northern Afrin region, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday.

"Certain preparations in the field take some time. In the coming days, much more swiftly, we will switch to the siege of Afrin city center," Erdogan told the members of his party in Parliament.

"By this way, [aid] from outside will be blocked, and the terrorist group will have no room to bargain with anyone."

Turkey launched the Afrin offensive a month ago. Its forces are 17 kilometres from the town centre, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Erdogan‘s remarks follow reports that the Syrian government would send troops to back the Kurdish militia in Afrin and keep Turkey out.

However, that effort was reportedly running into diplomatic turbulence.

Moscow has put up obstacles to a reported deal between the Syrian government and Kurdish militias to allow pro-government forces to enter and defend the northern city of Afrin, a Kurdish official said.

"The negotiations have been going on for a week now, but the Russians have been putting obstacles not to allow such a deal to be implemented," Suleiman Jaafar, a member of the Afrin local council told dpa by phone.     

"We have solid information that Russia has given Turkey a green light to destroy everything in Afrin," he said.

The Kurdish official hinted that the United States is also coordinating with the Russians.

"It seems that the two superpowers [US and Russia] have given Turkey the upper hand to attack Afrin," he added.

The United States has been the main backer of Kurdish fighters, the most effective ground force beating back the Islamic State extremist group in the country.

On Monday, Turkish government spokesman Bekir Bozdag warned of "major disasters" in case Damascus moves to defend Afrin, according to state-run Anadolu news agency.

Separately on Monday, Erdogan spoke by phone with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani regarding Syria, Anadolu reported.

Turkey, Russia and Iran, are the guarantors of ongoing talks to maintain a ceasefire in Syria as part of the so-called Astana process.

Ankara considers the Kurdish People‘s Protection Units (YPG), which controls Afrin, a terrorist organization because of its ties to a Kurdish insurgency in Turkey.

The YPG is part of the main Western ally in the fight against the Islamic State extremist group in Syria.

 

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