Two Turkish soldiers were killed in a mortar attack by People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants in the northwestern Syrian district of Afrin, according to a military statement on Wednesday night.
The Turkish General Staff in a statement said that the soldiers were killed in an area close to Afrin’s al-Maski region and southwest of the village of Bülbül. It added that the Turkish forces “responded to the attack immediately.”
Turkish General Staff has also stated on Thursday morning that at least 1,028 YPG militants have been “neutralized” since the beginning of Turkey’s “Operation Olive Branch” in Syria’s Afrin. Turkish authorities often use the word “neutralized” in their statements to imply the militants in question either surrendered or were killed or captured. The military said the Turkish Armed Forces had “neutralized” 29 YPG militants in airstrikes that were carried out overnight on Feb. 7.
TURKISH, RUSSIAN, IRANIAN LEADERS TO MEET IN İSTANBUL ON SYRIA
The Turkish and Russian leaders agreed on Thursday to hold a trilateral meeting with Iran on Syria, in İstanbul, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency (AA) has reported. No information was provided on the exact date of the summit.
AA reported that the Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin discussed Syria particularly Afrin and Idlib, during their phone conversation. Erdoğan also shared information about “Operation Olive Branch,” which was launched on Jan. 20, to clear PYD/PKK and allegedly ISIL militants from Afrin, northwestern Syria.
The two leaders also agreed on accelerating the establishment of new observation points in the de-escalation zone Idlib. Located in northern Syria near the Turkish border, Idlib was declared a de-escalation zone, according to a cease-fire agreement reached last year in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana. The Syrian regime, however, has repeatedly violated the deal and has targeted residential areas in opposition-held zones like Idlib.
PUTIN AND ERDOGAN AGREE TO BOOST MILITARY INTEL COOPERATION
In the telephone conversation on Thursday, Putin and Erdoğan have also reportedly agreed to enhance cooperation between Russian and Turkish armed forces, as well as intelligence services in fighting terrorism, Sputnik reported.
“It is agreed to strengthen coordination of the actions of the armed forces and special services of Russia and Turkey in order to combat terrorist groups that violate the ceasefire regime,” the Kremlin press service said.
Erdoğan and Putin have also touched on the humanitarian situation in Eastern Ghouta, and confirmed their determination to cooperate on matters relating to Syria, the source added. On Nov. 22, Erdoğan, Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani met in Russia’s Black Sea city of Sochi to discuss progress made in the Astana peace talks and changes in de-escalation zones across Syria.
Iranian President Rouhani has called for the Turkish operation in Afrin to come to an end, Qatari news site Al Jazeera reported on Tuesday. A military foreign intervention should be based on the authorisation of the host country and its people,” it quoted Rouhani as saying. Rouhani has also said the ongoing Turkish military operation in Afrin would not achieve its objectives.
During a press conference in Tehran, Rouhani stated that “We wish that Turkey’s operation in Syria will end at the earliest time… A foreign military intervention should be based on the authorization of the host country and its people.” Meanwhile, Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Bahram Qasimi said the Turkish military intervention in Rojava threatened the security of the region and would “lead to a new civil war.”