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Erdoğan: Turkey and Russia discussing joint steps in Afrin

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM) in Ankara on November 7, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday said Turkey is discussing with Russia possible steps in the Afrin region of Syria, which is controlled by the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), Sputnik reported.

“We cannot ignore the harassment from time to time from Afrin. We have decided to take steps against it. Our decisiveness will continue,” Erdoğan said at Istanbul Atatürk Airport prior to a visit to Russia.

“As Turkey, we have discussed with Russia joint steps here [Afrin]. Their positive approach gives us the opportunity to put our plan into practice in a different way at any moment,” Erdoğan added, recalling joint steps taken with Russia in Syria’s Idlib region.

President Erdoğan on Oct. 24 said Turkey had to a great extent completed its operation in the Syrian province of Idlib, saying Afrin province would be the next target.

Turkish troops on Oct. 13 entered Idlib as part of the Astana agreement and started establishing observation posts.

Turkey with Free Syrian Army forces took control of the Jarablus and Al Bab areas in northern Syria during an operation against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants between August 2016, and March 2017.

More than 70 soldiers were lost during Operation Euphrates Shield, which was evaluated as a strategic move to prevent unification of areas controlled by the Kurdish PYD.

Erdoğan on Oct. 8 said Turkey would not allow a Kurdish corridor in Syria extending along the Turkish border to the Mediterranean while assessing Turkish military operations in the Idlib region of Syria.

The Turkish president on Aug. 23 had said the PYD was trying to create a corridor to the Mediterranean in northern Syria, warning that Turkey would not allow this whatever the cost.

“Afrin [a Kurdish canton in northern Syria] is indeed a PYD project to reach the Mediterranean Sea. We will not permit a terror corridor in northern Syria having access to the Mediterranean. We will intervene whatever the cost,” said Erdoğan.

Erdoğan’s spokesman, İbrahim Kalın, also said on Oct. 6 that Turkey would not hesitate to carry out a military operation in Syria’s Afrin region, which is under the control of YPG militia, the armed branch of the PYD.

Turkey views the YPG as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).n

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