Turkey rules out returning Afrin to Assad

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Recep Akdağ has ruled out returning the Syrian district of Afrin, captured by Turkish troops and their allies from Syrian Kurdish forces in March, to the Syrian government, Turkish pro-government newspaper Daily Sabah said.

"A free and democratic Syria can only be built without (Syrian President Bashar) Assad. He has killed many of his fellow citizens and brought much suffering to his country," the newspaper quoted Akdağ as saying.

He said that Turkey did not wish to remain in the area for the long term and wanted to return it soon to the Syrian people.

"We want to give Afrin back to the local population, who should be there to decide for themselves,” Akdağ said.

“A local Afrin council has been set up, which is a decision-making body with local representatives.”

No one linked to the Kurdish-majority People’s Protection Units (YPG), which had previously controlled the area, would be allowed to participate in its government, he said.

Turkey says it killed more than 4,000 YPG and Islamic State fighters during its two-month military operation to gain control of Afrin that began in January.