Erdogan says Turkish troops to stay in Afrin

Erdogan says Turkish troops to stay in Afrin
2 min read
05 May, 2018
The future of Syria's Afrin has become a source of tension after the Turkish campaign to oust Kurdish militias.
Erdogan has rejected Russian calls to hand Afrin over to the Syrian government [Getty]
Turkey's President Erdogan said troops will stay in Syria's Afrin until it is "secure".

"We will remain in Afrin and we will be there until we assure its security," he said in a televised speech at Istanbul Youth Festival, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

In January, Turkey sent troops into Syria to root out the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia in the Afrin enclave and drove the group from the city on March 18.

Turkey has branded the YPG a terrorist group linked to outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which has waged an armed rebellion against the state since 1984.

Ankara has always argued the YPG disrupted the ethnic balance of northern Syria and insisted its fight is against the militia group and not Kurds themselves.

But the future of Afrin after the Turkish campaign has already become a source of tension. 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, whose country allowed Turkish air force to enter Syrian air space for the Afrin operation, said this week that Afrin should be "returned to the control of the Syrian government."

In response, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticised Lavrov's "wrong approach."

"We will give Afrin back to its inhabitants when the time comes but we will determine the time, not Mr Lavrov," Erdogan responded.

Kurds have accused Turkey of making a land grab. The evacuation of rebel fighters from Eastern Ghouta to Afrin under a Russian-brokered deal has also sparked fears of forced demographic change.

Erdogan on Friday reiterated ambitions to expand military operations into other areas, saying: "Idlib, Tal Rifaat and Manbij will be next."