Erdoğan: Turkey foiled Syrian move into Afrin after Putin talks

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President of Turkey and Leader of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Recep Tayyip Erdoğan delivers a speech during AK Party's parliamentary group meeting at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM) in Ankara on February 20, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN

Turkey thwarted a possible deployment of Syrian government troops into the northwest Afrin region after talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan said on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

A senior Kurdish official said over the weekend that a deal had been struck for the Syrian army to enter Afrin and fight back against the Turks. Syrian state news agency SANA on Monday reported that the pro-government militia would enter Afrin “within hours.”

“The [Syrian deployment] was seriously stopped yesterday… It was stopped,” Erdoğan told reporters following a speech at a Justice and Development Party (AKP) parliamentary group meeting in Ankara.

When asked if the deployment was stopped after talks with Putin, Erdoğan said, “Yes, it was stopped after those talks.”

Erdoğan on Monday spoke to both Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani about Syria, Ankara’s government spokesman said. The three countries also agreed that their foreign ministers would meet in Moscow on March 14, Reuters reported.

The Turkish military and Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters on Jan. 20 launched the incursion named Operation Olive Branch in Afrin against the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Turkey sees as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Turkey’s foreign minister on Monday warned against any intervention by Syrian pro-government forces alongside Kurdish militias in northern Syria, saying it would not prevent Ankara from continuing its month-old offensive.

“If the regime is entering [Afrin] to oust the PKK, YPG [People’s Protection Units], there’s no problem. But if they’re entering to protect the YPG, then no one can stop us and the Turkish military,” Çavuşoğlu said during a visit to Jordan.

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