Feb 20 2018

Erdoğan says Turkey to lay siege to Afrin city centre

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the country’s fight against terror would spread to the whole region until “every terrorist dies".

Following previously successful Turkish operations in Syria, "the same thing will happen in Afrin, Idlib and Manbij as well; it will also happen [in areas] from Tal Abyad to Qamishli along our borders,” Erdoğan told a meeting of his Justice and Development Party in parliament on Tuesday, according to the government-run Anadolu agency.

The Turkish army, which launched an incursion into the Afrin enclave a month ago, would lay siege to Afrin city centre in the coming days, he said. External aid to the city and surrounding area with therefore be cut, he added.

Turkey says Kurdish forces in Afrin and Manbij, where U.S. troops are helping to train and equip the fighters, are allied with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has fought for autonomy for Kurds in Turkey for three decades at the cost of about 40,000 lives, most of them Kurdish.

Erdoğan said the region where Turkey launched a previous incursion, named Operation Euphrates Shield, had already been cleared of terrorists and was now peaceful and secure.

"Both for the future of our brothers there and for the security of our country, our fight will continue in the entire region until the last terrorist dies," he said.

Turkey says approximately 2,000 square kilometres (772 square miles) of territory was transformed into safe zone for residents under Operation Euphrates Shield.

Erdoğan abandoned peace talks with the PKK in 2016, when a Kurdish party won seats in parliament and his AKP lost its legislative majority. The government ordered Turkish troops, backed by aircraft and artillery, into many urban centres in Turkey’s southeast after pro-PKK fighters built barricades. The military campaign caused widespread destruction to property and scores of deaths.

The government has also locked up parliamentarians of the main pro-Kurdish political party, including its leader, and activists calling for a peaceful solution to Turkey's conflict with the Kurds.