Turkey Warns Syria: Ready to Battle Regime Forces if They Defend Kurds

In response to Syrian report of government forces entering Afrin 'within hours' to support Kurdish militia, Turkish Foreign Minister promises Turkey cannot be stopped

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Amman, Jordan, Monday, Feb. 19, 2018.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Amman, Jordan, Monday, Feb. 19, 2018. Credit: Raad Adayleh/AP

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his country is ready to battle Syrian government troops if they enter an enclave in northern Syria to protect Syrian Kurdish fighters.

"If the regime is entering to protect the YPG, then no one can stop us, stop Turkey or the Turkish soldiers," said Cavusoglu.

Cavusoglu spoke on Monday in Jordan's capital, Amman, as Syrian state media reported that pro-Syrian government forces will begin entering the Afrin enclave "within hours," after reaching an agreement with the Kurdish militia in control of the region. The YPG is also supported by the Unites States, which has put a strain on Turkey-U.S. relations.

The official Syrian news agency SANA said the forces will deploy in Afrin to "bolster" local forces in confronting Turkish "aggression." This suggested the Syrian government and Kurdish fighters — a militia known as YPG — have struck a deal under which the government forces would help repel an ongoing Turkish offensive on the enclave. 

Turkish forces are currently deployed in northern Syria's Afrin province as part of a military incursion dubbed "Operation Olive Branch" by Ankara. Afrin is controlled by YPG, which Turkey sees as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which has carried out a deadly, three-decade insurgency in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast.