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Syrian conflict

Assad slams Turkey’s Syria offensive as ‘support for terrorism’

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 January, 2018, 10:33pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 January, 2018, 10:33pm

President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday condemned Turkey’s offensive against Kurdish militia in the northern Syrian region of Afrin, saying it was part of Ankara’s support for extremist groups.

Turkey and allied Syrian rebels entered the Afrin region on Sunday, a day after launching their offensive against the Kurdish-controlled area.

“The brutal Turkish aggression on the Syrian town of Afrin cannot be separated from the Turkish regime’s policy from the first day of Syria’s crisis, which was essentially built on supporting terrorism and terrorist organisations, whatever their names,” Assad said in statements carried by state news agency SANA.

Since Syria’s conflict broke out in 2011, the government has repeatedly slammed Ankara for its support of rebels, accusing it of funding extremist factions.

As Turkish threats of a potential attack escalated last week, Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad warned that Syria could shoot down Turkish warplanes used in an assault.

But the Damascus government has also previously taken a hard line against the Kurdish authorities, which have implemented semi-autonomous institutions across parts of northern Syria, including Afrin.

On Saturday, a foreign ministry official denied claims by Turkish authorities that it had been informed of the Afrin offensive and called the attack “the latest move in Turkey’s attacks on Syria’s sovereignty”.

Iran’s official IRNA news agency said the Foreign Ministry in Tehran condemned the Turkish assault on Afrin and expressed its concerns over this operation.

The report on Sunday quoted ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi as saying Iran is concerned about ongoing developments in Afrin and following them closely.

Ghasemi called on Turkey to end this offensive operation immediately. “The continuing crisis in Afarin may boost terrorist groups again in the northern parts of Syria.”

Ghasemi said the international community, especially Syria’s neighbouring countries, to continue their efforts to reach a peaceful and political settlement.

Additional reporting by Associated Press