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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

Turkey warns pro-Syrian forces in Afrin of 'serious consequences' 

Arrival of Damascus-backed militias opens door to more violence 

A convoy of pro-Syrian government fighters flashing the victory sign upon arriving in Syria's northern region of Afrin, with a portrait of the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan seen on a banner in the background. George Ourfalian / AFP
A convoy of pro-Syrian government fighters flashing the victory sign upon arriving in Syria's northern region of Afrin, with a portrait of the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan seen on a banner in the background. George Ourfalian / AFP

Turkey on Wednesday warned Syrian President Bashar Al Assad of "serious consequences" unless his forces retreated from the Kurdish enclave of Afrin.

Pro-government militias entered the Afrin area on Tuesday, but were repelled by Turkish shelling, President Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman said. It is unclear whether the Iran-backed troops are inside the eponymous city.

"Any step by the regime or other elements in this direction will surely have serious consequences," presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told reporters.

Turkey is determined to press ahead with its offensive to drive Kurdish fighters known as People’s Protection Unit, or YPG, out of Afrin.

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Mr Kalin warned that Syrian regime forces would become a "legitimate target" if they continued siding with the Kurdish militia fighters.

Mr Erdogan's government views the YPG as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which has been locked in a battle against the Turkish state since 1984.

The arrival of Damascus’ forces to Afrin opens the door to more violence on Syria’s already complex northern battlefront, where Turkish troops, Syrian rebels, the Syrian army, Iran-linked militias, Kurdish fighters and Russian and American forces are all contending.

Ramon Penas / The National
Ramon Penas / The National

London's representative of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the political branch of the YPG, Alan Shemo, said that Syrian regime forces will facilitate the protection of Afrin’s borders.

“There will likely be joint forces to protect the border, but that depends on the military agreement needed. [They are] not allowed to enter the city [of Afrin],” Mr Shemo told The National.

He asserted that the Kurdish self-governing administration in Afrin will not be compromised.

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