Istanbul: Turkish troops and allied Syrian rebels have taken Afrin city centre under control following two-month’s of fighting, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday.
The Free Syrian Army, backed by the Turkish army, completely took over Afrin’s city centre on Sunday, Erdogan said at a ceremony marking the 103rd anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign in Canakkale in northwestern Turkey, Xinhua reported.
“At this moment Turkish flag is flapping there, the Free Syrian Army flag is flapping,” he said.
Turkey started the campaign against the Afrin district in northwestern Syria on January 20, with a view to driving out Kurdish militants, who are seen by Ankara as terrorists.
Erdogan pledged to take all the steps needed to make the entire region livable, improving both its infrastructure and superstructure.
“We will take all necessary steps to bring the people of the region back to their homes as soon as possible,” he added.
Erdogan has repeatedly threatened to move on eastward to take over Manbij, a town which is also held by Kurdish militia known as the People’s Protection Units (YPG) but has a US military presence.
Turkey and the United States, with a relationship strained over an array of issues including Washington’s continued arming of the YPG, have agreed to resolve their differences over Manbij through talks.
The presidents of Russia, Turkey and Iran are scheduled to meet on April 4 in Istanbul, with war-torn Syria on top of their agenda.
In the view of Abdullah Agar, a security analyst, the Afrin operation has progressed more rapidly than expected. “Currently, the work to secure the stabilisation is continuing,” he said.