Turkish FM dodges question of Russian consent for Afrin invasion

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu would not confirm that Russia had consented to a speculative Turkish invasion of the Syrian province of Afrin, saying merely that they “should not oppose it”, secular newspaper Hürriyet said.

“The Russians should not be opposed to the Afrin operation,” Çavuşoğlu told CNN Türk. “What we need to co-ordinate is the situation of their observers there in order to avoid any accidents.”

Turkey was also talking to both Russia and Iran about using the airspace, he said.

Syria’s deputy foreign minister has threatened to shoot down any Turkish planes used in the invasion of Afrin.

Çavuşoğlu went on to say that the United States’ decision to continue training majority-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters had caused “irreparable damage” to bilateral relations.

“(They said) their co-operation would finish after Raqqa finished,” he said. “The U.S. did not keep their promise to us at (the SDF-controlled city of) Manbij. We need to see concrete steps taken by the U.S.”

The United States would not affect Turkey’s resolve to enter Afrin, Çavuşoğlu said.

“It is our right under international law to take precautions,” he said. “We are going to do this; we need to do this. We do not care what the countries of the world have said.”

Turkey had been in talks with the Iraqi government to co-ordinate the expulsion of the SDF’s sister groups, including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), from Iraq as well, Çavuşoğlu said.

“I believe that we will wipe the PKK from Iraq in co-operation with Iraq,” he said.