Syria war: Pro-government forces enter Kurdish-held Afrin

Turkey says unclear whether Syrian regime forces will enter Afrin

Turkish troops entered Syria on January 20 to expel Kurdish YPG fighters from the border area, viewing them as an extension of the Kurdish PKK separatist group that Turkey has fought for decades.

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

Turkish troops then shelled the area and Turkey said it had forced the pro-government fighters to retreat.

Syrian pro-government forces have entered the Kurdish enclave of Afrin, provoking an immediate response from Turkish forces besieging the area.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday said it was possible to resolve the crisis in the Afrin region of Syrian Kurdistan through direct dialogue between Damascus and Ankara amid news of the arrival of pro-Syrian government forces to the border. Putin is a key backer of the Syrian government. "They pressure the Turks with the Kurdish card (and vice versa)", said Youssef, a senior member of the Kurdish-led autonomous authority in north Syria. "They will pay a heavy price for this".

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Seemingly contradicting Ankara's position, Syrian state news agency SANA on Wednesday reported that there were "new groups of popular forces arriving in Afrin" to support the local fighters against "the continued aggression of the Turkish regime".

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

A picture taken on February 20, 2018 shows a convoy of pro-Syrian government fighters arriving in Syria's northern region of Afrin. But many argue Turkey would need Russia's backing in order to avoid confronting Syrian troops along with the YPG.

Images were aired of "popular forces" loyal to President Bashar Assad moving toward Afrin city in pick-up trucks equipped with anti-aircraft guns and armoured personals carriers (APCs), Efe reported.

Moscow, they said, wanted to secure its interests in Syria and keep leverage with Ankara to advance its wider ambitions of brokering a settlement of the conflict. It is unclear whether the Iran-backed troops are inside the eponymous city.

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