USA urges Turkey to remain focused on Daesh, not attack Syria's Afrin

USA urges Turkey to remain focused on Daesh, not attack Syria's Afrin

Turkey says it is launching a full military operation against these Kurds - which it considers a terrorist group.

The statement said the operation will also take sensitivity into account and no civilian/innocent person would be harmed.

Almost 350,000 Kurds from Syria's Afrin have fled to Turkey after oppression from PYD/PKK and Daesh terror groups, Premier Binali Yildirim said on Saturday, Anadolu Agency reports.

The Turkish presidential spokesperson explained that "This entity poses a threat to Turkish national security on the one hand, and it will be a step towards threatening the unity of the Syrian territories at a stage where the Geneva and Astana talks are still ongoing".

"The Afrin operation has de-facto been started on the ground", Mr Erdogan said in a televised speech in the city of Kutahya on Saturday, without specifying whether Turkish troops had also crossed the border.

Syria has previously warned against any operation and said it would shoot down Turkish planes.

The YPG and the rest of the SDF, composed of Arab, Syriac and other ethnic minorities militias, have received military aid from the U.S.in their offensive against the Islamic State group, including training assistance, weapons and strategic airstrikes.

Turkey's foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said his country is determined to press on with its anti-Kurdish measures. The YPG, which advocates for a free Kurdistan, cooperated significantly with the United States in operations against the Islamic State and has minimal contact with the Syrian dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad.

On Saturday, the Turkish army announced that a new campaign, dubbed "Olive Branch", had launched at 14:00 GMT, targeting the YPG and IS jihadists.

It would be imprudent to predict Turkey's next step, although it would seem unlikely that Ankara would attack Afrin if Russian Federation has taken a strong stance against it.

According to CNN, the Turkish armed forces said that 108 out of 113 targets had been hit and that all of the dead and wounded brought to hospitals are Kurdish militia members.

Turkey's military has been shelling the area since Thursday, a move which it said was in response to fire coming from the area.

In its first comments since the launch of the air strikes, the Russian foreign ministry said: "Moscow is concerned at this news". Russia, too, has called for restraint.

The Syrian government has condemned the Turkish airstrikes, calling them "aggression" and a "brutal attack".

Explosions heard from Afrin after Turkish jets cross Turkey-Syria border, reported Anadolu.

The General Staff said that the operation aims "to eliminate terrorists of PKK/KCK/PYD-YPG and Daesh [the Islamic State terrorist group outlawed in Russia - TASS], and to save our friends and brothers... from their [the terrorists'] oppression and cruelty.".

On Friday, Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said the United Nations has seen the reports of shelling in Afrin and reiterates the call on all concerned parties to avoid further escalation and any acts that could deepen the suffering of the Syrian people. "We don't want them to engage in violence but we want them to keep focused on Isis".

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