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Iran Press TV

Turkey says army to take center of Syria's Afrin 'in very short time'

Iran Press TV

Thu Mar 15, 2018 03:03PM

Turkey says its military will take the center of Syria's Afrin "in a very short time" and oust Kurdish militants from the region, amid Ankara's ongoing cross-border offensive into the Arab country in a declared bid to eliminate the US-backed Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and other militant outfits in northwestern Syria.

"The circle is closing in around the terrorists. We anticipate that the center of Afrin will be cleared of terrorists in a very short time, God willing in the coming days," said Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin on Thursday, a day after Turkish troops and allied militants from the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) closed in on the flashpoint city.

Ankara waged the so-called Operation Olive Branch against the YPG in the volatile region of Afrin in January 20, and has said that the full-scale offensive could extend to Manbij and beyond.

The military intervention came after the US said it would set up a 30,000-strong militant border force at Turkish doorstep. Ankara is wary of the presence of Kurdish militants close to its borders in Syria, and has been opposed to Washington's efforts to train and arm them in the Arab country.

The Turkish government views the YPG as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) "terrorist" group that has been fighting for an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984. Ankara has said that the operation would also target the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), the YPG's political wing and the remnants of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.

Kalin, speaking during a live interview on Turkish state television TRT, said that the offensive had secured 70 percent of the territory of Afrin district.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated on March 9 that 3,171 YPG militants had been "neutralized" since the beginning of the operation. Turkish authorities often use the word "neutralized" to imply the terrorists in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.

The Syrian government has already condemned the Turkish offensive against Afrin, rejecting Ankara's claim about having informed Damascus of the operation.

"Operation Olive Branch" is Turkey's second major military intervention in Syria during the 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 the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group from Turkey's border with Syria and stopping the advance of Kurdish militants, who were themselves fighting Daesh.

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

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