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Gov’t spokesperson denies reports of Syrian regime forces’ deployment to Afrin

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Bekir Bozdağ, a spokesperson for Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), has denied reports suggesting that Syrian regime forces were heading on Monday to the northern Syrian town of Afrin, where Turkey has been conducting a military operation since Jan. 20, to take sides with the Kurds

“Popular forces 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,” state news agency SANA said early on Monday, citing its correspondent in Aleppo.

SANA said the forces would “join the resistance against the Turkish aggression.”

The Turkish military and Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters launched Operation Olive Branch in the Afrin region of Syria against the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey see as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Speaking following a Cabinet meeting on Monday evening, Bozdağ said Turkey is closely following news about the PYD making an agreement with the Syrian regime, adding that such reports are “untrue and have nothing to do with reality.”

“It is out of the question for the Syrian regime to send any security forces in the region. If such a step is taken, this could lead to a big disaster,” warned Bozdağ.

He also added that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spoke to his Russia counterpart about the Turkish operation in Afrin and said there has been no change in Russia’s stance regarding the operation.

The spokesperson also added the Operation Olive Branch would continue until “the last terrorist is rendered ineffective.”

Turkey sees the YPG’s presence on its southern border as a direct threat, and observers have noted it would be more comfortable with a regime force deployed there.

Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Turkey’s foreign minister, earlier on Monday warned the Syrian regime not to take the side of the Kurds in Afrin.

“If they are getting there to clear out the YPG, then there is no problem. But if they are entering Afrin to protect the YPG, no one can stop us.”

The Afrin operation has seen Ankara deploy ground troops and pound the region with air strikes and artillery fire.

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