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Iran Press TV

EU's Mogherini 'extremely worried' about Turkish offensive in Syria

Iran Press TV

Mon Jan 22, 2018 07:22PM

The European Union foreign policy chief has expressed grave concern about Turkey's military operation against Kurdish militants in northern Syria, saying she would seek urgent talks with officials in Ankara.

"I'm extremely worried and will discuss this among other things with our Turkish interlocutors," Federica Mogherini said after a regular meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday.

Referring to the Turkish operation in the northwestern Syrian region of Afrin, the EU foreign policy chief said she was worried "for two main reasons."

"One side is the humanitarian one -- we need to make sure that humanitarian access is guaranteed and that civilian population and people are not suffering from military activities on the ground."

The second issue, Mogherini said, was that the operation "can undermine seriously the resumption of talks in Geneva, which is what we believe could really bring sustainable peace and security for Syria."

The EU foreign policy chief also expressed hope to hold a meeting with Turkish European Union Affairs Minister Omer Celik "in the coming days."

Turkey launched a new air and ground operation, called "Operation Olive Branch," around the area of Afrin on January 19 to oust the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara views as a terror organization and the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

The operation was launched days after Washington said it would work with the Kurdish militants to set up a 30,000-strong border force near Turkish soil, a move that infuriated Ankara.

The YPG, which is operating as part of the so-called Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militant coalition, is purportedly fighting against terrorists without obtaining any official authorization from Damascus, which calls the forces "traitors" to the Syrian nation.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has condemned Turkey's military operation in Afrin, stating that the offensive is a violation of Syria's sovereignty and part of Ankara's support for Takfiri terrorist groups operating inside the conflict-plagued Arab country.

Turkey urges international support for Afrin operation

Meanwhile, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said on Monday that Ankara's operation in the northwestern Syrian enclave was continuing successfully as planned and called for international support for the military campaign.

Bozdag said nobody had the right to impose limits on the Turkish operation against US-backed Kurdish militants in Afrin.

The Turkish deputy premier also said the United States needed to end its support for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militants if Washington intended to work together with Ankara on the Syrian conflict.

Operation Olive Branch in Afrin region is Turkey's second major military intervention in Syria since an unprecedented foreign-backed militancy that broke out in 2011.

In August 2016, Turkey began a unilateral military intervention in northern Syria, code-named Operation Euphrates Shield, sending tanks and warplanes across the border. Ankara claimed that its military campaign was aimed at pushing Daesh from Turkey's border with Syria and stopping the advance of Kurdish forces that were themselves fighting Daesh.

Turkey ended its military campaign in northern Syria in March 2017, but at the time did not rule out the possibility of yet another act of military offensive inside the Arab country.

Civilian death toll in Afrin hits 18: SDF

A spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said in a statement on Monday that the death toll from a Turkish operation in Afrin stood at 18 civilians, including women and children.

SDF spokesman Kino Gabriel added that an additional 23 people had been wounded in the offensive.

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