Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says if regime forces enter the Afrin region to protect the PKK-linked YPG group, then nothing can stop the Turkish army's advance there.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, speaks during a news conference with his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi in Amman, Jordan, on February 19, 2018.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, speaks during a news conference with his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi in Amman, Jordan, on February 19, 2018. (Reuters)

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Monday warned Bashar al Assad's regime against supporting the PKK-affiliated YPG terror group in Syria's Afrin region where the Turkish military launched an operation on January 20.

Cavusoglu was speaking at a joint news conference with his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi in capital Amman.

He said, "If the regime enters Afrin to clear out the YPG, then there is no problem. If they are entering there to provide protection to the group, then no one can stop Turkey or Turkish soldiers."

"This applies to Afrin, Manbij and the east of the Euphrates River."

His remarks came after the Assad regime's state-run news agency SANA reported on Monday that the pro-Assad militia called “Popular Forces” was going to enter Afrin within a few hours.

The YPG is said to have held talks with the Syrian regime after more than 70 different strategic areas were liberated during Turkey's Operation Olive Branch since its launch last month.

On Sunday, Badran Jia Kurd, an adviser to the YPG, told Reuters the regime forces would be deployed along some border positions and could enter the region within the next two days.

"We can cooperate with any side that lends us a helping hand," Jia Kurd said.

However, YPG's so-called head of the executive council in Afrin region Hifi Mustafa, denied on a phone call to Sky News Al Arabia that an agreement had been reached with the Syrian regime, but she confirmed that there were ongoing talks with the Syrian regime on the issue.

TRT World 's Ahmed al Burai explains the importance of the possible Syrian regime army deployment in the region.

On January 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to clear the YPG from Afrin.

YPG is the Syrian branch of the PKK, which is designated as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US and EU and has been fighting the Turkish state for more than 30 years and has taken some 40,000 lives, including thousands of civilians.

The Turkish General Staff say that the operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey's rights based on international law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defence rights under the UN charter and respect for Syria's territorial integrity. 

There was no immediate comment from the Syrian regime, or Washington.

Long-term agreement?

Although Assad regime and the YPG have mostly avoided direct conflict, they have occasionally clashed and they espouse utterly different visions for Syria's future.

While both have at times suggested a long-term agreement between them might be possible, Assad says he wants to take back the whole country.

Jia Kurd said the agreement with Damascus on Afrin was purely military and included no wider political arrangements.

Since the onset of Syria's conflict in 2011, the YPG has occupied three regions in the north with the help of Washington, including Afrin bordering Turkey.

These areas expanded as they seized territory from Daesh with US help, though Washington says it opposes their political ambitions as does the Syrian regime.

Turkey says its biggest security concern is the YPG carving out an autonomous territory near its southeastern border.

In August 2016, Turkey started its first military operation in Syria, Euphrates Shield, to defeat Daesh at its borders and also prevent the creation of any corridor between YPG-held territories.

Since October, it has also played a role in the opposition-held Idlib province bordering Afrin, as part of a diplomatic process backed by Turkey, Russia and Iran via talks in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Syria has been locked in a devastating civil war since March 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.

While UN officials say hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict, Syrian regime officials say the death toll is closer to 10,000. 

Source: Reuters