February 21, 2018 / 9:35 AM / 4 months ago

Turkey warns Syrian forces entering Afrin face serious consequences

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey warned on Wednesday that pro-Syrian government forces entering the northwest Afrin region to support a Kurdish militia there will face “serious consequences” and they will be regarded as legitimate targets.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses the audience during a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, February 21, 2018. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS

A convoy of some 40-50 vehicles carrying pro-government forces tried to enter Syria’s Afrin on Tuesday, but retreated after artillery fire by Turkish forces, President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman said.

“Any step by the regime or other elements in this direction will surely have serious consequences,” Ibrahim Kalin told a news conference.

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The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Turkey’s offensive continued overnight, including shelling of the main Afrin town. A commander in the pro-Assad military alliance told Reuters on Tuesday the forces had turned back after coming under fire, but then resumed their progress and were in Afrin.

Turkey and its Syrian rebel allies launched a military operation last month to drive Kurdish YPG fighters out of Afrin. Ankara says the YPG is a terrorist group and an extension of the PKK which has fought a three-decade insurgency in southeast Turkey.

“Any step there aimed at supporting the... YPG terrorist organization will mean they are directly siding with terrorist organizations and will therefore become legitimate targets for us,” Kalin said.

He also said Turkey was not in direct talks with the Syrian government, but its messages were being conveyed indirectly.

Reporting by Ece Toksabay and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by David Dolan; Editing by David Dolan

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