February 5, 2018 / 2:25 PM / 8 months ago

Iran urges Turkey to stop army offensive in northern Syria

LONDON (Reuters) - Iran urged Turkey on Monday to stop its military offensive in Syria, saying the operation in the northern Afrin region breached Syrian sovereignty and would increase tension in the war-damaged country.

FILE PHOTO: Smoke rises from the Syria's Afrin region, as it is pictured from near the Turkish town of Hassa, on the Turkish-Syrian border in Hatay province, Turkey January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Osman Orsal/File Photo

Turkey last month launched an air and ground campaign, dubbed Operation Olive Branch, against the Kurdish YPG militia in Afrin.

“Turkey should stop its operation and respect Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.

“Turkey’s actions can bring back insecurity, instability and terrorism to Syria,” he added.

Qasemi said any solution to the Syrian crisis should be discussed in talks in the Kazakh capital Astana that are sponsored by Russia, Iran, and Turkey.

He said Iran was in continuous talks with both Turkey and Russia about the latest developments in Syria.

Russia and Iran back Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey supports Assad’s opponents.

Ankara considers the U.S.-backed YPG, which controls Afrin, to be a terrorist group and an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which has fought an insurgency in Turkey’s largely Kurdish southeast since 1984.

The Syrian government last week called the Turkish offensive in Afrin an illegal “aggression” and said it would deal with it accordingly.

Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin, Editing by William Maclean

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