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Turkey says UN Syria ceasefire will not affect Afrin offensive

By AFP - Feb 25,2018 - Last updated at Feb 25,2018

A member of Free Syrian Army, backed by Turkish army, stands guard around the field in Omer Ushagi village in the Raju area, located west of Afrin, within ‘Operation Olive Branch’, launched by Turkey in Syria’s Afrin region on Sunday in Aleppo, Syria (Anadolu Agency photo)

ANKARA — Turkey on Sunday welcomed the unanimous demand by the UN Security Council for a 30-day ceasefire in Syria, but insisted that its own operation against a Kurdish militia in the Afrin region was not affected.

With support from the Damascus regime’s ally Russia, the Security Council on Saturday adopted a resolution on the ceasefire to allow for aid delivery, as concern rises over the humanitarian situation in the rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta.

“We welcome the resolution adopted by the UN Security Council in response to the worsening humanitarian situation all across Syria, in particular in Eastern Ghouta,” Turkey’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

But it added that Turkey “will remain resolute in fighting against the terrorist organisations that threaten the territorial integrity and political unity of Syria”.

Last month, Turkey launched a military operation against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia in the western enclave of Afrin in northern Syria.

The operation has raised tensions with Washington, which works closely with the YPG in the fight against extremists in Syria.

But Turkey sees the YPG as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which for more than three decades has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state and is banned by Turkey, the US and the European Union as a terror group.

“There is no question of this decision [by the UN Security Council] having any affect on the operation that Turkey is pursuing,” Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said in televised comments.

Without directly mentioning the decision at the UN, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also indicated that there would be no let-up in the operation.

“It will continue until the final terrorist is destroyed,” Erdogan said in the southern city of Sanliurfa. He said that Turkey had killed more than 2020 “terrorists” in the operation, but it is not possible to verify this figure.

The YPG, however, said in a statement it was prepared to halt all military operations — except those against Daesh militants — “while reserving the right to retaliate... in case of any aggression by the Turkish army”.

It said that the ceasefire demand applied to Afrin and it was ready assist the entry of any humanitarian aid into the region.

Acting on Turkey›s request, Czech authorities this weekend detained Saleh Muslim, the former co-chair of Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), the political wing of the YPG. Turkey wants him extradited to face terror charges which he denies.

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