Syria's Assad slams Turkey offensive as 'support for terrorism'

US actions in Syria either provocation or lack of understanding Lavrov

"We have an agreement", Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara, according to the AFP news agency. "There's no stepping back from Afrin", he said in a speech in Ankara.

The Kurdish and other US-backed fighters "have proven their effectiveness", he said adding that it had "cost them thousands of casualties".

Moscow, a military ally of President Bashar al-Assad that operates a major air base in Syria, has not confirmed giving a green light to the campaign - which Syria has strongly objected to - but did not appear to be acting to prevent it.

The Turkish forces will be trying to create what is described as a 18-mile (30km) "safe zone" inside Afrin, the Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said.

Turkish military and the Free Syrian Army launched a land operation to cross the border into the Syrian province of Afrin on Sunday morning, January 21, 2018.

Turkey sees the YPG as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has carried out a deadly, three-decade insurgency in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast.

"The US is in Syria to defeat ISIS", he said, using another acronym to for ISIS, as he began a meeting with his British counterpart Boris Johnson. He, however, called on all parties in the ongoing conflict to Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity. He played down any negative impact on the Turkish economy.

Turkey's operation nonetheless comes at a time when ties between Ankara and Washington appear strained.

"The blatant Turkish aggression on Afrin on Saturday would not happen if the Turkish government had not previously taken the green light from the US". "Our forces have to this point repelled them and forced them to retreat", he told Reuters.

The Turkish army in alliance with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) captured Afrin's Shankal, Qorne, Bali, Adah Manli villages and Kita, Kordo and Bibno rural areas along with four other hills.

Turkish security forces retaliated in kind, it said.

Then when the Americans recently announced plans to create a 30,000-strong border security force mainly made up of Kurdish fighters, Turkey ramped up the rhetoric and has now matched it with on-the-ground action.

The offensive, named "Operation Olive Branch", is an attempt by Turkey to force the Kurdish Peoples' Protection Units (YPG) from territory they control in the Afrin border region in northwest Syria. Russian troops stationed in Afrin district had redeployed ahead of the Turkish offensive, which also includes airstrikes. Many of them are refugees from Arab villages and towns in the region.

Asked whether he was concerned about the situation, Mr Mattis said: "We are very alert to it".

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