BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the conflict in Syria (all times local):
The Turkish foreign minister says his country is ready to battle Syrian government troops if they enter an enclave in northern Syria to protect Syrian Kurdish fighters.
Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke on Monday in Jordan’s capital, Amman, as Syrian state media reported that pro-Syrian government forces will begin entering the Afrin enclave “within hours,” after reaching an agreement with the Kurdish militia in control of the region.
The official Syrian news agency SANA said the forces will deploy in Afrin to “bolster” local forces in confronting Turkish “aggression.” This suggested the Syrian government and Kurdish fighters — a militia known as YPG militia — have struck a deal under which the government forces would help repel an ongoing Turkish offensive on the enclave.
The Turkish minister says that “if the regime is entering to protect the YPG, then no one can stop us, stop Turkey or the Turkish soldiers.”
Turkish officials have increased to 786 the number of people detained so far in Turkey for criticizing the country’s military offensive in northern Syria.
Authorities have been cracking down on protests and social media criticisms of its military operation into the Syrian Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin, accusing perpetrators of engaging in “terror propaganda.”
Those detained have included Kurdish politicians and doctors in Turkey who have warned against the operation’s human costs.
Turkey launched its offensive on Jan. 20 to clear Afrin of Syrian Kurdish militia which Turkey considers to be an offshoot of its own outlawed Kurdish rebels fighting within Turkey.
An Interior Ministry statement on Monday says at least 587 incidents of social media “propaganda” and 85 protests had occurred since Jan. 20
Syrian state TV says pro-government forces will begin entering the Syrian Kurdish enclave of Afrin in the country’s northwest “within hours.”
The TV gave no further details about the deployment of the troops, known as “popular forces,” which comes amid reports that an agreement has been reached between the Syrian government and the main Syrian Kurdish militia in control of the area.
The agreement may prompt Turkey to pull out its forces and end a month-long air and ground offensive that aims to oust the Syrian Kurdish militia known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, from the border enclave.
The deployment would bring Syrian troops closer to the border with Turkey.