Afrin chess game
Syria’s announced intention to enter Afrin where the Turkish Armed Forces are staging an operation has heightened tension in the region.
With eyes turning to Turkey’s Afrin operation, reports of a YPG-Damascus alliance in Afrin that have long been doing the rounds were back in the news. The announcement came from Syrian state television Al Ekhbariya that militias supported by the Syrian army would shortly enter Afrin. Syrian official agency SANA announced, relying on its Aleppo correspondent, “Popular forces will arrive in Afrin in the next few hours to support the steadfastness of its people in confronting the aggression which Turkish regime forces have launched on the region.” The report went on to state, “Popular forces (Iranian-supported pro-Damascus militia groups) will arrive in Afrin within a few hours to support its people's stand against the Turkish regime's attack on the area and its people. This comes in the framework of supporting residents and defending the territorial unity and sovereignty of Syria,"
There have been claims from sources close to the YPG/PKK who have spoken to the international media including Reuters that the Syrian Democratic Forces whose main component is the YPG had reached agreement with the Syrian army and the army would enter Afrin. However, the YPG’s Afrin Spokesperson, speaking to Sputnik, asserted, “"The information about Syrian government army preparing to enter Afrin is not true.” The Spokesperson commented, “We have said countless times that the Syrian army has not entered Afrin. It will not do so, either. If there is an agreement or development, we will make an official announcement. We have grown tired of these reports. If the Syrian army comes to Afrin, we will not hide this from you and the public. We will say, ‘The army will come to aid the Afrin people.’ When civilians in Afrin and Aleppo sometimes come in civilian buses, they say, ‘Look, the Syrian army has come.’ They misunderstand.” As to the question of whether negations over Afrin had been conducted between the Syrian army and the YPG, no reply was forthcoming.
Urgent call with Putin
With presidential sources saying about yesterday’s phone call between Erdoğan and Putin, “The latest developments in Syria were addressed and decisiveness in the fight against terror was stressed,” they stated that the latest developments in Syria by way of Afrin and Idlib were addressed. Confirmation was made of the decisiveness to act in cooperation and coordination in combatting terrorism in the discussion in which President Erdoğan imparted information about the Olive Branch Operation. Following the call, President Erdoğan commented, “Russia understands Turkey’s decisiveness over the Olive Branch Operation. If the regime takes these steps it will have consequences.”
Operation enters its 32nd day
The Olive Branch Operation launched against Afrin on 20 January by the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) together with components of the Free Syrian Army has completed its 31st day. On Sunday, Chief of the General Staff Full General Hulusi Akar, accompanied by Land Forces Commander Full General Yaşar Güler and Air Force Commander Full General Hasan Küçükakyüz, made examinations and inspections at the headquarters of various units and brigades assigned to the Olive Branch Operation located in the Kilis and Hatay areas. Full General Akar, convening with unit commanders and staff at the command posts for operational units, obtained information about the Olive Branch Operation that is progressing successfully. With Akar inspecting operations at one of the Olive Branch operational centres and obtaining information from the commanders, the sign “This team will take this match” affixed to the team’s door caught the eye. On the other hand, it was announced in the TAF’s daily bulletin on Afrin that five more villages had been captured from the YPG and the total number of YPG dead was 1641 following the 27 YPG fighters killed yesterday.
Çavuşoğlu: Nobody can stop us
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who went to Jordan to conduct official talks following the stand-off over Afrin, addressed the matter at a joint press conference held with Jordanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ayman Al Safadi. He said, “If the Syrian regime enters Afrin to protect the PKK and YPG, nobody can stop us and the Turkish soldiers.” Çavuşoğlu, asked by a journalist for his comment on reports that the Assad government in Syria was cooperating with the YPG, said, “We have been saying something clearly since the outset. The aim of both our Afrin-Olive Branch Operation and our Euphrates Shield Operation has been clear from the outset; to eliminate terrorist elements in the region.”
“Jordan also supports it”
Çavuşoğlu said, “Our aim in the Afrin region is also clear. It is an operation launched to destroy the PKK/YPG terrorist elements. Jordan also supports this operation. I, too, read reports this morning that the Syrian regime is cooperating with PKK/YPG elements. If the regime enters here to clean up the PKK and YPG, there is no problem. If the Syrian regime enters here to protect the PKK and YPG, nobody can stop us and the Turkish soldiers. This both applies to Afrin, applies to the east of the Euphrates and also applies to Manbij.
CHP: We knew about this plan
CHP Deputy General Chair Öztürk Yılmaz, commenting on the Syrian army’s announcement that it would enter Afrin city centre, stated that they knew this plan was being worked on and said, “If this comes to pass, Turkey will now encounter Assad and his army in Afrin.”
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