Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has warned on Monday that “no one will stop” the Turkish troops if the government of Bashar al-Assad decides to send its military to the Afrin region in northern Syria to defend to the Kurd militias that fight against Ankara.
“If the regime forces enter Afrin to protect the People’s Protection Units (YPG), nobody will be able to stop the Turkish forces”, Cavusoglu said during his official visit to Amman, in statements collected by the Turkish daily ‘Hurriyet’.
However, he clarified that if the Syrian government deploys a military contingent in Afrin to “clean up” the region of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militias and the Syrian Kurdish party PYD, on which the YPG depend, “then there will be no problems”.
Cavusoglu has issued this warning, which could result in a direct confrontation between Syria and Turkey, shortly after Syrian state television Ijbariya reported that government troops will enter Afrin “in the next few hours”.
Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch on 19 January with the stated aim of expelling terrorist groups operating on the common border, including the Kurdish militias that have been key in the war against the Islamic State.
The government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan equates the YPG with the PKK, a Kurdish group considered a terrorist by Turkey, the European Union and the United States against which the Turkish forces have been fighting in the southeast of the country for decades.
Kurdish militias have asked Al Assad for help in containing the Turkish advance, despite the fact that Kurds and government troops are enemies in the context of the civil war that has been raging in Syria for seven years.