Afrin Op Day 2: UN Security Council to discuss Syria crisis, Turkish incursion (updates)

All updates about the third day of Turkey’s military operation on Syria’s Afrin are here:

23:17 UN Security Council to discuss Syria crisis, Turkish incursion

The UN Security Council will on Monday discuss the worsening humanitarian crisis in Syria after Turkey launched an offensive against Kurdish militias, diplomats said.

The council was already scheduled to meet to hear a report from UN aid chief Mark Lowcock on his recent visit to Syria.

At France's request, the closed-door consultations will also touch on the Syrian campaign in Idlib and Eastern Ghouta, as well as the latest Turkish offensive, diplomats said Sunday.

Turkey on Saturday launched operation "Olive Branch" to oust the Kurdish fighters of the Peoples' Protection Units (YPG) from the Afrin region of northern Syria.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said France was deeply worried by the "brutal degradation of the situation" in flashpoints like Afrin.

Russia, which supports the Syrian government, also voiced concern. The defense ministry said it was withdrawing its troops from Afrin to prevent any "provocation." 

The United States has backed Kurdish militias in the fight against the Islamic State group (IS), and on Sunday the State Department urged Turkey to "exercise restraint" and keep its military campaign "limited in scope and duration" while avoiding civilian casualties.

But separately, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that Turkey, a NATO ally, had "legitimate" concerns in Syria, and that US officials had received advance notice of the Turkish incursion.

The talks at the council are expected to begin around 11:30 am (1630 GMT), diplomats said. (AFP)


21.08  Turkey advised U.S. before Syria strikes; contacts ongoing -Mattis 

ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Turkey advised the United States ahead of its air strikes in Syria against U.S.-backed Kurdish militia, and the Washington is in contact with Ankara about the way forward, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Sunday during a flight to Asia.


"Turkey was candid," Mattis said, without disclosing the U.S. reaction to the Turkey's notification. "They warned us before they launched the aircraft they were going to do it, in consultation with us. And we are working now on the way ahead.

"We'll work this out." (Reuters)


16.43 US urges Turkey to exercise restraint

On Sunday, The US State Department issued a statement for general public and stated that the US Gov't is "very concerned" about "especially the plight of innocent civilians who are now faced with an escalation in fighting."

Turkish FM Cavusoglu earlier today in Bagdat stated that those who do not side with Turkey on Afrin operation, side with terrorists. Cavusoglu said while responding the news that France called an urgent UNSC meeting over Afrin, said: "France does "not act like ally... then it would be treated as a country that sides with terrorists”

Here is the full statement of the US State Department, by Spokesperson Heather Nauert:

"As expressed by Secretary Tillerson in calls to his Turkish and Russian counterparts yesterday, the United States is very concerned about the situation in northwest Syria, especially the plight of innocent civilians who are now faced with an escalation in fighting.  We continue to be supportive of addressing the legitimate security concerns of Turkey as a NATO Ally and critical partner in the effort to defeat ISIS. However, we urge Turkey to exercise restraint and ensure that its military operations remain limited in scope and duration and scrupulous to avoid civilian casualties.  We call on all parties to remain focused on the central goal of defeating ISIS.  Now is the time for great nations to work together to secure a peaceful stability for the people of Syria."

State Department
State Department Building, Washington

17.45 Turkish border city hit by rocket, one Syrian refugee killed

One Syrian refugee was killed and 32 people were wounded Sunday in rocket fire on a Turkish town close to the Syrian border, a local official said, a day after the Turkish army began a new operation against Kurdish militia in Syria.

Two of those hurt were badly injured, Huseyin Sanverdi, the mayor of Reyhanli, a small town situated in Hatay province on the Syrian border, told NTV television. Earlier, several rockets hit the Turkish border town of Kilis without causing fatalities. 

The Dogan news agency said that three rockets had hit the centre of Reyhanli, damaging buildings and parked vehicles.

Turkish forces on Saturday began a major new operation aimed at ousting the Peoples' Protection Units (YPG) Kurdish militia from Afrin, pounding dozens of targets from the sky in air raids and with artillery.

Turkey accuses the YPG of being the Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which has waged a rebellion in the Turkish southeast for more than three decades and is regarded as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Twitter that this "terrorist attack" against civilians in Reyhanli had shown the "true face" of the YPG. (AFP)

17.26 Turkish FM says those opposing operation in Syria's Afrin siding with terrorists 
Anyone who opposes Turkey's operation in northern Syria's Afrin region is siding with terrorists and will be treated accordingly, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Sunday.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of an official visit to Iraq, Cavusoglu said Ankara expected France to support Turkey's operation, after France asked Turkey to act with restraint in Syria, saying it would call an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. Reuters

16:37 Erdoğan: Afrin operation will be completed “in very short time”

Addressing his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) women branch in western city of Bursa, Erdoğan was quoted by state-run news agency Anadolu as saying, “hopefully, we will complete this operation in a very short time.”

Erdoğan said:

“55 percent of Afrin is Arabs; 35 percent are Kurds who came there later. The whole point it to give Afrin back to real owners. We are going to send Syrians in Turkey back to their country as soon as possible.”

15:20 Erdoğan warns Turkey’s Kurds not to protest Afrin operation

Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan warned supporters of the pro-Kurdish opposition not to protest the military’s operation in northern Syria, saying security forces would intervene if they demonstrated.

“Know that wherever you go out on the streets our security forces are on your necks,” Reuters quoted Erdoğan as saying, referring to members of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), parliament's second-largest opposition.

15:10 Investigation launched on social media posts critical of Afrin operation

Turkish prosecutors launched criminal investigation against social media users in Turkey’s capital Ankara and eastern province of Diyarbakir, Van, Mardin and Muş.

The users are investigated on “making propaganda of a terrorist organisation” and “sharing false information,” independent news outlet Diken reported.

15:05 France calls for UNSC meeting over Afrin

France has called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council over Syria following a Turkish incursion into northern Syria's Afrin province, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Sunday.

"Ghouta, Idlib, Afrin - France asks for an urgent meeting of the Security Council," Le Drian said on his Twitter feed. He added that he had spoken with his Turkish counterpart on Sunday morning.

Turkish ground forces pushed into northern Syria's Afrin province on Sunday, the army said, after Turkey launched artillery and air strikes on a U.S.-backed Kurdish militia it aims to sweep from its border. (Reuters)

14:33 Nationalist party says it supports Afrin operation

Turkey’s right-wing Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) voiced support for Turkey’s ongoing military operation in Afrin, the northwestern enclave of Syria, state-run Anadolu news agency (AA) reported.

“There is no other way to clear our borders from terror,” Devlet Bahçeli was quoted by AA as saying at a news conference in Kızılcahamam near capital Ankara.

13:10 Turkish forces move into Afrin joining Free Syrian Army

Turkish ground forces have started to move into Syria’s Afrin with Free Syrian Army, Turkey’s state-run news agency Anadolu said.

Turkish Armed Forces backed by armoured vehicles, special forces and infantry regiments advanced 5 kilometres (3 miles) inside Afrin as part of Operation Olive Branch, it said.

12:15 Turkish army says 153 targets hit in Afrin operation

Turkish warplanes and artillery hit 153 targets in Syria’s northwestern enclave of Afrin, the Turkish General Staff said on Sunday.

“So far, 153 targets, which were used as shelters, hideouts and ammunition depots by terrorist organizations PKK/KCK/PYD-YPG and Daesh, have been targeted,” said Turkish General Staff in a statement quoted by Turkey’s state-run news agency Anadolu.

11:44 Turkey will create 30 km-deep ‘safe zone’ in Syria's Afrin – Turkish PM

Turkey wants to create 30 kilometres (19 miles) “safe zone” as part of its operation in northwestern Syrian enclave of Afrin, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said.

There are no casualties from Turkish military since it started a ground operation in the region, Reuters quoted Turkish PM as saying.

9:30 Turkey-backed Syrian militia launches major ground operation in Afrin

Turkey-backed Syrian fighters, Free Syrian Army (FSA), launched a comprehensive operation against Syrian Kurdish militia in Afrin on Sunday, Turkey’s state-run news agency Anadolu reported.

FSA fighters backed by Turkish military started to move towards the northern Syrian city in the early hours, AA said.

8:20 Turkish religious authority calls for ‘conquest’ sermon in support of military

Over 90,000 mosques around Turkey gave sermons on conquest and asked community to pray for the troops during Turkish military operation on Syria, Hürriyet newspaper reported.

Turkey’s religious authority on Friday called on all religious clerics in Turkish mosques, which are state employees, to read Quran’s chapter 48 on conquest (Al-Fath) and invited community to pray for Turkish soldiers.

8:00 Russia wants to hand over Afrin to Assad, Syrian Kurdish officials say

Officials from Syrian Kurdish administration said Russia offered Kurds protection if they hand over Afrin region to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces.

Nobahar Mustafa and Sinam Mohammad, the representatives of Syrian Kurds in Washington D.C., were quoted by Turkish independent outlet Diken as saying that Turkey and Russia made a deal before the Afrin operation, allowing Turkish airstrikes.

(All times Turkish)

All updates about the first day of Turkey’s military operation on Syria’s Afrin are here.