01/26/2018, 10.12
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Afrin pleads with Syrian army to counter Turkish offensive

Local leader: We need to counter this "aggression" and stop Ankara air raids. Erdogan ignores Trump's warnings and promises that the operation will "continue until the result is achieved". Europe's concern. Berlin temporarily blocks arms sales to Ankara.

Damascus (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Afrin authorities, a region in northern Syria at the center of Erdogan's offensive against the Kurdish militias YGP (People's Protection Unit), are appealing to the government of Damascus to block the flights of Turkish aviation.

Othmane al-Cheikh Issa, executive co-president of the enclave, stresses that "the Syrian state [...]must counter this aggression with all available means and declare that it will not allow Turkish aircraft to fly over Syrian airspace".

Renamed "Olive branch", the offensive launched last 20 January by the Turkish army with the help of some rebel factions long engaged in the Syrian conflict, intends to expel the Kurds from the region. The main target of the Ankara troops is the YGP fighting militias, which have proved fundamental in the past in the fight against the jihadists of the Islamic State (IS).

Turkish President Recep Tayyp Erdogan regards Kurdish fighting groups as an enemy to be hit. The group also has links with a movement inside Turkey (PKK, the Workers' Party of Kurdistan), outlawed considered by Ankara and with secessionist aims.

Afrin is one of the three cantons that form the local "federal region", a semi-autonomous administration founded in 2016 on the initiative of Syrian Kurds who live and control the territory. "We consider Afrin - added Othmane al-Cheikh Issa - as an inseparable element of the Syrian territory" and the attacks against the inhabitants of the area are "an attack on the sovereignty of the Syrian state".

In recent days, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had condemned the Turkish offensive, which has so far resulted in at least 35 victims and dozens injured; Deputy Foreign Minister Fayçal Moqdad had threatened to repel Turkish jets surprised flying over the Syrian territory.

However, the Ankara government intends to continue its offensive and not even the recent phone call between Erdogan and US President Donald Trump served to ease the tension. In these hours the Turkish president has visited the troops engaged in the operation against the Kurdish militias, underlining that it will "continue until the result is achieved".

The new war winds blowing from the region are of some concern to Western chancelleries and, in particular, to Europe. In a note German leaders invoked an urgent NATO meeting to discuss the Erdogan’s military operation, given that Turkey is a member of the alliance. Berlin has also arranged a temporary block of arms sales to Turkey.

The leader of Nato Jens Stoltenberg emphasizes that Turkey has the right to defend itself, but then added that "this must be done in a measured and proportionate way".

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See also
Syrian conflict: Russian peace talks in Sochi overshadowed by Turkish anti-Kurdish offensive
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Al Huweidi assassination ends dream of an autonomous Syrian Kurdistan
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