Turkey says UN Syria ceasefire won’t affect Kurdish offensive

People carry posters which read 'save Ghouta' and flags of the Syrian National Coalition during a protest to demand an immediate cease-fire in Eastern Ghouta, Syria, on the 'Place de la Republique' in Paris, France, 25 February 2018. [Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA/EFE]

Turkey on Sunday (25 February) welcomed the unanimous demand by the UN Security Council for a 30-day ceasefire in Syria, but insisted that its own operation against a Kurdish militia in the Afrin region was not affected.

With support from the Damascus regime’s ally Russia, the Security Council on Saturday adopted a resolution on the ceasefire to allow for aid delivery as concern rises over the humanitarian situation in the rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta.

EU calls for ceasefire in Syria's eastern Ghouta, urgent aid access

The European Union called on Friday (23 February) for an immediate ceasefire and access for aid in Syria, using a strongly-worded statement to express its anger at the bombing of Syria’s eastern Ghouta.

“The European Union is running out of words …

“We welcome the resolution adopted by the UN Security Council in response to the worsening humanitarian situation all across Syria, in particular in Eastern Ghouta,” Turkey’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

But it added that Turkey “will remain resolute in fighting against the terrorist organisations that threaten the territorial integrity and political unity of Syria”.

Last month Turkey launched a military operation against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia in the western enclave of Afrin in northern Syria.

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Turkey’s European affairs ministers told the EU yesterday (25 January) to side with Ankara in its campaign against a Kurdish militia in northern Syria.

The operation has raised tensions with Washington, which works closely with the YPG in the fight against jihadists in Syria.

But Turkey sees the YPG as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which for more than three decades has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state and is banned by Turkey, the US and the European Union as a terror group.

“There is no question of this decision (by the UN Security Council) having any affect on the operation that Turkey is pursuing,” Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ said in televised comments.

Without directly mentioning the decision at the UN, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also indicated that there would be no let-up in the operation.

“It will continue until the final terrorist is destroyed,” Erdogan said in the southern city of Sanliurfa. He said that Turkey had killed more than 2020 “terrorists” in the operation, but it is not possible to verify this figure.

The YPG however said in a statement it was prepared to halt all military operations — except those against Islamic State jihadists — “while reserving the right to retaliate… in case of any aggression by the Turkish army.”

It said that the ceasefire demand applied to Afrin and it was ready assist the entry of any humanitarian aid into the region.

Acting on Turkey’s request, Czech authorities this weekend detained Saleh Muslim, the former co-chair of Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), the political wing of the YPG. Turkey wants him extradited to face terror charges which he denies.

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The Turkish government wants the Czech authorities to extradite a Syrian Kurdish leader detained this weekend at Ankara’s request to face terror charges in Turkey, it said on Sunday (25 February).