March 18, 2018 / 7:53 PM / in 9 months

Pro-Kurdish groups in Turkey call for army's withdrawal from Afrin

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Dozens of Turkey’s Kurdish and leftist groups appealed to world powers on Sunday to press for Turkish and Syrian rebel forces to withdraw from Afrin and avoid a “human tragedy” in the northwestern Syrian town.

More than 40 political parties, associations and unions issued the statement just hours after the Turkish army and its Syrian rebel allies swept into Afrin, driving out Kurdish YPG fighters following an eight-week air and ground offensive.

They called on the United Nations, European powers, Muslim countries and members of the U.S.-led military coalition against Islamic State to “take steps to immediately avert the tragedy in Afrin and get concrete results, including withdrawal of all armed forces who entered Afrin.”

The appeal came in a statement read to a news conference in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir by Berdan Ozturk, a parliamentarian from the pro-Kurdish opposition HDP party.

The statement also called on Kurdish people preparing to celebrate the spring festival of Newroz in Turkey this week to rally “in the spirit of resistance” and in solidarity with the people of the mainly Kurdish town.

“It is the moral and conscientious duty of all humanity to stand up for the people of Afrin and to be on the side of the Afrin resistance, it is a matter which is above politics,” the groups said in the statement.

More than 150,000 people fled the fighting around Afrin in recent days, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor and a senior Kurdish official said on Saturday.

Turkey says the Kurdish YPG forces driven out of Afrin are an extension of the outlawed PKK militants, who have been waging a three-decade-old insurgency in southeast Turkey in which 40,000 people have been killed.

It says the offensive in Afrin aimed to secure Turkey’s southern border, and has threatened to extend the campaign to other Kurdish-controlled regions of northern Syria.

Reporting by Daren Butler and Yesim Dikmen, editing by Larry King

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