Turkey launches operation against Kurds in northern Syria, Erdogan says

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The Turkish operation against Kurdish militants in northern Syria has begun, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday, adding that the offensive aimed to eliminate a “terror corridor” along the southern Turkish border.

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“The Turkish Armed Forces, together with the Syrian National Army (rebel groups backed by Ankara), just launched #OperationPeaceSpring,” Erdogan wrote on Twitter in English. He said the offensive targeted Kurdish militants and the Islamic State group in northern Syria.

“Our mission is to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border, and to bring peace to the area,” he wrote, also aiming to enable the return of Syrian refugees in Turkey. “We will preserve Syria’s territorial integrity and liberate local communities from terrorists.”

This operation has been launched with air strikes and will be supported by artillery and howitzer fire, a Turkish security source told Reuters on Wednesday. He was speaking after explosions rocked the town of Ras al Ain in northeast Syria, on the border with Turkey.

A spokesman for the US-backed Kurdish-led force in northern Syria said Turkish warplanes had started targeting “civilian areas” in northern Syria. Mustafa Bali of the Syrian Democratic Forces said the airstrikes had caused “a huge panic among people of the region”.

The US ambassador to Ankara was summoned to the foreign ministry on Wednesday to be briefed on Turkey’s offensive, broadcaster CNN Turk said, minutes after Ankara launched its cross-border operation.

Moments before the Turkish offensive, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged on his Turkish counterpart President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to “think carefully about the situation so as not to harm overall efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis”, the Kremlin said in a statement following a call between the two leaders.

After Ankara launched the operation, a senior Russian lawmaker said that Russia would not get involved in the conflict between Ankara and Damascus, the RIA news agency cited. Russia’s military is in Syria for different reasons, RIA quoted Vladimir Dzhabarov, the first deputy chair of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of parliament, as saying.

Turkey has long been planning military action against Kurdish forces in northern Syria since US troops began vacating the area, due to the Kurdish forces’ ties with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought a bloody insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.

France 24

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

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