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Erdogan: Turkey Will Clean Its Entire Border With Syria From Terrorists

© REUTERS / Khalil AshawiTurkish forces are seen near Mount Barsaya, northeast of Afrin, Syria January 22,2018
Turkish forces are seen near Mount Barsaya, northeast of Afrin, Syria January 22,2018 - Sputnik International
Turkey started a military operation dubbed Olive Branch in Syrian Afrin on January 20 to protect its borders from Kurdish militia, considered by Ankara as posing a terrorist threat to the country's security.

Addressing a congress of his ruling AK Party in the northern province of Amasya, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that Turkey would ensure that the Syrian refugees the country hosts could return to their homes after the border is cleared of militants.

Since the launch of the military offensive, Turkish forces have eliminated 394 Kurdish and Daesh fighters and the country's aviation has destroyed 340 targets during the operation, as the country's General Staff announced on January 27.

Meanwhile, the Syrian SANA news agency reported that about 86 civilians had been killed and 198 others wounded, adding that the assault had caused damage to civilian infrastructure, including residential areas and archaeological sites.

READ MORE: Kurdish SDF Report of Turkish Airstrikes on Dam in Afrin

Olive Branch Operation

Turkey started the military operation dubbed Olive Branch in Syrian Afrin on January 20, describing the advance as a necessity to protect their borders from "terrorists".

The decision to start Olive Branch mission was taken days after the United States announced their decision to start training a 30,000-strong SDF security force on Syria's border with Turkey. The armed formation was expected to comprise to a great extent of People's Protection Units (YPG) militia, which Turkey classifies as a terrorist group affiliated with its own illegal Kurdish organization, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). The PKK seeks greater autonomy for Kurds in Turkey and has carried out a number of attacks against civilians and military.

The United States, however, denied that they were going to create some border protection force, calling it "misunderstanding".

"That entire situation has been misportrayed, misdescribed. Some people misspoke. We are not creating a border security force at all," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson commented on the Pentagon's plan on January 17.

In its turn, Turkey has repeatedly demanded some solid evidence to substantiate that the US has ended its support to the Kurdish militants, following Washington's calls and assertions that the US had been providing "mission-specific" weapons to the Syrian Democratic Forces for use in Raqqa, Syria and not "providing anything to any other groups in the area". 

Stance Over the Operation

Ankara has stated that the operation is aimed at terrorists only. Moscow underscored the importance of preserving Syria's integrity. Damascus denounced the Turkish campaign.

The Pentagon said Ankara's actions were hampering what Washington described as fight against terrorism.

READ MORE: Turkish Jets, Free Syrian Army Launch Offensive on Kurdish-Held Afrin

Ankara, however, has repeatedly stated that it was maintaining close contacts with Russia and other states about the progress of the operation, including US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, assuring of their intention to keep Syria's territorial integrity as a strategic goal.

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