Defence minister: Turkish military to stay in Syria’s Afrin region until threats eliminated

The Turkish military will continue to take necessary measures in Syria’s Afrin region, from which it drove the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia in an offensive this year, until all terror risks there are eliminated, Turkish Defence Minister Nurettin Canikli said on Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters in Parliament, Canikli said Afrin would be handed over to the central government in Syria when a new administration has been formed following the elections, once terror threats in the region have been eliminated.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday described as “very wrong” the approach of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to the future of Afrin. Russia’s Interfax on Monday reported Lavrov as telling a news conference that the easiest way to normalize the situation in Afrin was to put the area back under the control of the Syrian government. Erdogan told reporters that Turkey would hand Afrin over to its residents “when the time comes.”

Also on Monday Erdogan stressed the importance of halting civilian deaths in Syria’s eastern Ghouta region in a telephone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a Turkish presidential source said. Suspected chemical attacks over the weekend killed at least 60 people and wounded more than 1,000 in Syria’s rebel-held eastern Ghouta, a Syria medical relief group said.

Turkey said on Monday international organizations must investigate what happened in Douma. “International organizations, especially the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, need to investigate and inform the world with the correct information about what happened over there,” government spokesman and deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ said. He added that information received clearly suggested that chemical weapons were used.

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