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Turkey launches new offensive in Syria; Russia calls for 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 Russia called for restraint and called on Ankara to avoid an escalation.

Russian presidential envoy to Syria Alexander Lavrentyev said Turkey should ‘show some restraint’ to prevent an escalation in Syria, where tensions escalated over the weekend after airstrikes Turkish forces killed and injured a number of Syrian soldiers.

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

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

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

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

“We will of course call on our Turkish colleagues to show some restraint in order to avoid an escalation of tension, and an escalation of tension not only in the north, but also throughout Syria,” he said. said Lavrentyev. as Russian state news agencies reported in the Kazakh capital, Astana, ahead of the Syria talks.

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

“We have been above the terrorists for the past few days with our planes, artillery and drones,” Erdogan said: “Know that as soon as possible we will root them all out with our tanks and soldiers.”

Erdogan continued: “Now there is only one measure for us. There is only one border. (And that is) the security of our own country, of our own citizens. It is our most legitimate right to go where this security is assured.

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

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

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

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

A Syrian war monitoring 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 viewed Turkey’s security concerns “with understanding and respect”, but also urged Ankara to “refrain from taking measures that could lead to serious destabilization. of the situation in general”.

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

Also on Tuesday, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser reiterated in a joint press conference with her Turkish counterpart that Berlin stands with Turkey in the fight against terrorism, but said the response of Turkey to the attacks had to be “proportionate” and respectful of civilian populations.

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

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

“NATO rose up because a few bombs fell on Poland,” Soylu said, complaining about what many Turks see as Western insensitivity to attacks on Turkey by Kurdish militants. He was referring to a missile strike on Polish farmland earlier this month that killed two people.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s defense minister renewed a call to the United States and other nations not to support the Syrian Kurdish militia, YPG, which Turkey sees as an extension of the PKK.

“We express at all levels that ‘PKK equals YPG’ to all our interlocutors, especially the United States, and constantly demand that all support for terrorists be cut,” 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 has allied with the United States in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria.

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


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