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Turkish Foreign Minister Warns Syria About Military Intervention

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, and Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi (not shown), give a press conference in Amman, Jordan, Feb. 19, 2018. Cavusoglu said his country is ready to battle Syrian government troops if they enter an enclave in northern Syria to protect Syrian Kurdish fighters.

With Turkish-led forces stepping up their military operations against the Syrian Kurdish militia, the YPG, in Syria's Kurdish-controlled Afrin enclave, Ankara has reacted cautiously to reports that Damascus is set to intervene militarily.

“If they are getting there to clean out YPG, then there is no problem,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Monday. “But If Syrian forces are entering Afrin to protect YPG, no one can militarily stop us.”

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​The Turkish government has declared the goal of its operation is to remove all YPG militia from Afrin and create a 30-kilometer (19 miles) security zone.

Ankara accuses the militia of being terrorists linked to a decades-long insurgency in Turkey. The United States backs the YPG in the fight against Islamic State.

Monday, Syrian state television claimed forces backed by the government of President Bashar al-Assad had reached an agreement with the YPG to deploy in the contested Afrin enclave.

Syrian Kurdish militia officials are reportedly giving mixed messages on whether a final agreement with Damascus has been reached.

Syrian officials say the Turkish offensive into Afrin is an infringement on territorial integrity, and warn Syria will take steps to resist it. Ankara says the operation is only about securing its borders and is within international law.

FILE - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan greets his supporters during a rally in Bursa, Turkey, Jan. 21, 2018.
FILE - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan greets his supporters during a rally in Bursa, Turkey, Jan. 21, 2018.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has refused calls by opposition party leaders in Turkey to open a dialogue with his Syrian counterpart.

A potential military clash between Turkey and Syria poses a problem for Russia, which is a major backer of the Assad regime, but maintains ties with Erdogan. Russian forces are allowing Turkish jets to enter Syrian airspace in support of the ongoing military offensive.

Turkish media reported Monday the Russian and Turkish leaders spoke by telephone to discuss Syria.

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