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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran Press TV

Russia says hundreds, including civilians, killed in Turkish operation in Syria's Afrin

Iran Press TV

Wed Jan 31, 2018 04:05PM

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova says several hundred people, including civilians, have been killed during Turkey's military operation in Syria's northwestern region of Afrin.

The Russian official made the remarks on Wednesday as Ankara has been pressing ahead with the so-called Olive Branch operation against militants from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in Afrin since January 20.

Ankara considers the US-backed YPG to be a terrorist group and an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is fighting for independence in Turkey's largely Kurdish southeast since 1984.

The Turkish incursion in Afrin started after the United States said it sought to set up a thousand-strong force in Syria near the Turkish border comprising the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is led by the YPG.

Turkey first deployed forces to northern Syria in 2016 to repel the YPG under the banner of "Operation Euphrates Shield."

Turkey has defended the operation in Afrin, saying it is solely aimed at securing the country's security.

Russia has, however, voiced concern about the Turkish military operation in Afrin, calling on the sides to exercise restraint.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement shortly after the launch of the operation that Moscow was sticking to its position on solving the Syrian crisis based on safeguarding the Arab country's territorial integrity and respecting its sovereignty.

Erdogan, Putin discuss Syria congress in Sochi

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke on the phone with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday to discuss the outcome of a Russian-sponsored conference on Syria in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi.

"The heads of state... stressed the importance of implementing the reached agreements, aimed at effective promotion of the Syrian political settlement process on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 2254," the Kremlin's press service said in a statement.

The Russian president's press service also said that Putin and Erdogan had agreed they were satisfied with the results of the Sochi congress and also discussed their cooperation in maintaining de-escalation zones in Syria and continuing the Astana format, a series of peace talks aimed at resolving the ongoing crisis in Syria and determining the country's post-war future.

The Syrian Congress of National Dialog was held on January 29 and 30, with delegates from the Syrian government and opposition in attendance.

In a final statement issued at the end of the congress, parties said that they agreed on a proposal to form a constitutional committee "comprising the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic delegation along with wide-represented opposition delegation for drafting of a constitutional reform as a contribution to the political settlement under the UN auspices in accordance with Security Council Resolution 2254."

They also said the Syrian people alone shall determine the future of their country "without external pressure or interference, in line with Syria's international rights and obligations."

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