Erdogan vows 'quick end' to Afrin operation in Syria

Turkey's President Erdogan vows 'quick end' to Afrin operation in Syria
3 min read
21 January, 2018
Turkish troops moved into a Kurdish-controlled region in Syria on Sunday morning, as President Erdogan vowed a quick end to the operation
Turkish troops crossed into the YPG-controlled Afrin region in Syria on Sunday. [Getty]
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday he hoped Turkey's offensive against a Kurdish militia in northern Syria would be completed in "a very short time", as Turkish ground troops entered Syria.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim announced earlier that troops crossed into the a region in Syria controlled by the People's Protection Units, a Kurdish militia, at 8.05am GMT.

Turkish artillery and war planes pounded YPG sites around Afrin ahead of the advance.

State-run Anadolu news agency said that the Turkish army troops, whose number was not specified, were advancing alongside forces from the pro-Ankara Free Syrian Army (FSA).

Turkish attacks in the Afrin region of northern Syria killed ten people on Saturday, mostly civilians, a spokesman for the Kurdish militia which controls the area said.

"God willing, this operation will be finished in a very short time," Erdogan told supporters in the north-western Turkish province of Bursa after Turkey launched the campaign to remove the YPG from the border region of Syria.

"We will continue on this path like this, with determination, with belief. We will not take a step back," Erdogan vowed in a televised speech.

Turkey views the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its YPG armed wing as "terrorists" linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) waging an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984. 

The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies.

"Now I see how the PYD/PKK/YPG terror organisations run away. As I said, they will run away, (and) together with our soldiers, we will chase them away," he promised.

Erdogan also hit out at calls by Turkey's main pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) to protest against the Afrin operation and said they were being watched "step by step".

"You will not be able to have a free hand. Hey HDP... hey PKK, wherever you come out, know this: our security forces will be breathing down your neck," he added.

Second Syria incursion

The operation is Turkey's second major incursion into Syria during the seven-year civil war after the August 2016 to March 2017 Euphrates Shield campaign in an area to the east of Afrin against both the YPG and Islamic State group.

The Turkish foreign ministry said it had even informed Damascus through its Istanbul consulate. But the Syrian regime, which is at odds with Turkey, strongly denied this and President Bashar al-Assad slammed the offensive as "support for terrorism".

The Turkish army claimed IS was also being targeted in this operation although the jihadi group is thought to have no presence in the Afrin area. 

There was no immediate comment from the United States on the offensive but ahead of its launch a senior State Department official had raised concerns it risked being harmful for security in the region.

French Defence Minister Florence Parly said the fighting "must stop" as it could deter YPG fighters helping the international coalition against IS.

"Our priority is the fight against terrorism," Parly told France 3 television.