Erdoğan warns Putin – keep Assad out of Afrin
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has warned his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to keep his Syrian allies under control, the Turkish press reported on Monday.
“There will be consequences” if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad follows up reported plans to send troops to help Kurdish militias defend northwest Syria against Turkey, Erdoğan reportedly told Putin during a phone conversation on Monday.
Turkey’s launched Operation Olive Branch, a military incursion into the Afrin area in northwest Syria, on Jan. 20 to drive away forces from the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey considers a satellite of the terrorist-designated Kurdistan Workers’ Party.
Assad’s Russian allies agreed to withdraw forces which had been deployed in an observatory role in the run-up to the operation, leaving the way clear for the Turkish incursion.
News reports on Monday suggested that Syrian militias aligned with Assad were poised to enter Afrin to help defend the territory against Turkish forces, prompting Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ to reject the claims and warn that such a move would lead to a “disaster” in the region.
During the phone call, Erdoğan and Putin also reaffirmed their collaboration against terror, and discussed establishing a “deescalation zone” in Idlib, the largest remaining territory held by rebels against Assad’s regime, according to Hürriyet’s news.