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Home World News Washington Post World News Turkey hints at new Syria offensive; Russia urges restraint

Turkey hints at new Syria offensive; Russia urges restraint



ANKARA – Turkey’s president again hinted at a possible new ground offensive in Syria against Kurdish militants on Tuesday, as Syrian forces denounced new airstrikes and urged Russia to hold back and called on Ankara to avoid an escalation.

Russian presidential envoy to Syria Alexander Lavrentyev said Turkey must show “some restraint” to avoid an escalation in Syria, where tensions rose over the weekend after Turkish airstrikes killed and injured a number of Syrian soldiers.

Lavrentyev expressed the hope that “it will be possible to convince our Turkish partners to refrain from excessive force on Syrian territory.”

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces later said new Turkish airstrikes on Tuesday hit a base the group shares with the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group. The base is located just outside the town of Qamishli, 50 kilometers (30 mi) from the Turkish border. Two SDF fighters were killed and three were wounded, the group said.

Turkey carried out airstrikes on suspected Kurdish militant targets in northern Syria and Iraq this weekend, in retaliation for a deadly Nov. 13 bombing in Istanbul that Ankara blames on the militant groups. The groups have denied involvement in the bombing.

The airstrikes also hit several Syrian army positions in three provinces along the border with Turkey, killing and wounding a number of Syrian soldiers, Syrian officials said.

“We will, of course, call on our Turkish colleagues to show some restraint to avoid an escalation of tension, and an escalation of tension not only in the north, but also in the entire territory of Syria. said Lavrentyev. That is what the Russian state news agencies say in the Kazakh capital Astana, ahead of talks about Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Turkey’s actions will not be limited to airstrikes, suggesting a possible new incursion – a position he reiterated on Tuesday.

“We have been on top of the terrorists with our planes, artillery and drones for the past few days,” Erdogan said, “know that we will wipe them all out as soon as possible, along with our tanks and soldiers.”

Erdogan continued: “From now on there is only one measure for us. There is only one limit. (And that is) the security of our own country, our own citizens. It is our most legitimate right to go where this safety is guaranteed.”

Turkey has launched three major incursions into northern Syria since 2016 and already controls part of Syrian territory in the north.

Following the weekend’s airstrikes from Turkey, suspected Kurdish militants in Syria fired rockets across the border into Turkey on Monday, killing at least two people and injuring 10 others, according to Turkish officials.

While Kurdish-led forces in Syria have not commented or claimed responsibility for the attacks, the SDF on Monday vowed to respond “effectively and efficiently at the right time and place” to Turkish airstrikes.

The Turkish warplanes attacked bases of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and the Syrian People’s Protection Units, or YPG, on Saturday evening and Sunday. Turkish officials claimed that 89 targets had been destroyed and many militants killed.

A Syrian war observation group said 35 people were killed in airstrikes over the weekend – 18 Kurdish fighters, 16 Syrian government soldiers and a local journalist.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday that Moscow views Turkey’s security concerns “with understanding and respect” but also urged Ankara “to refrain from any steps that could lead to a serious destabilization of the situation in in general”.

“It can come back like a boomerang,” Peskov said.

Also on Tuesday, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser reiterated at a joint press conference with her Turkish counterpart that Berlin stands alongside Turkey in the fight against terrorism, but said Turkey’s response to attacks must be “proportionate” and take into account the civilian population.

However, Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu defended Turkey’s actions.

“They want to establish a terror state around us, we cannot allow that. It is our duty to protect our borders and our country,” he said.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s defense minister repeated a call for the United States and other countries not to support the Syrian-Kurdish militia group YPG, which Turkey views as an extension of the PKK.

“We express at every level that ‘PKK equals YPG’ to all our interlocutors, especially the United States, and constantly demand that all support for terrorists be stopped,” Hulusi Akar told a parliamentary committee.

Ankara and Washington both consider the PKK a terrorist group, but disagree on the status of the YPG. Under the banner of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the YPG is an ally of the US in the fight against the Islamic State terror group in Syria.

AP reporters Kareem Chehayeb in Beirut and Dasha Litvinova in Tallinn, Estonia contributed to this report.

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