Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that his country managed to thwart a possible deployment of Syrian regime forces into the northwestern Afrin region.
“There was a movement towards Afrin by Shiite militias which were interrupted after they were shelled,” Erdogan said at a joint news conference alongside his Macedonian counterpart Gjorge Ivanov in Ankara.
He added that the militias were forced to go back after artillery shooting. “This file is closed for now," he confirmed.
The Turkish president also said that it was impossible to give any terrorist organization a chance in Afrin.
“They would pay a heavy price for it,” Erdogan warned.
The arrival of pro-Syrian regime forces to the Kurdish Afrin area constituted on Tuesday an important development that adds to the existing conflict in Syria.
Turkey’s Anadolu agency reported that the withdrawal of the pro- Assad terror groups came when they were about 10 km away from Afrin.
On Tuesday, Syrian state television showed a convoy of pro-government fighters entering Afrin to help Kurds confront a Turkish assault.
As Damascus and Turkey were on the verge of triggering off a military clash, Russia was speeding its steps to avoid any confrontation between both forces.
Russia called on Ankara to start a direct dialogue with Damascus to reach a deal concerning Afrin.
Moscow had earlier denied having participated in any negotiations related to previous agreements between the Syrian regime and the Kurdish forces in Afrin, saying it prefers a direct dialogue between Ankara and Damascus.
Separately, deadly air strikes and artillery fire launched by Syrian regime forces against Damascus’ eastern Ghouta since last Sunday killed more than 200 civilians and wounded tens others.
The UN said “the humanitarian situation of civilians in Syria's east Ghouta is spiraling out of control,” and called for a permanent ceasefire.
“Six hospitals have been struck over two days in the Syrian rebel enclave, putting three out of service and killing several people,” the United Nations said.
The Syrian opposition condemned on Tuesday the aggression on Ghouta, threatening to withdraw from the UN-sponsored peace talks.
“It is clear that the Damascus regime has no interest to engage in any dialogue,” said Nasr Hariri, head of the Syria Negotiation Commission representing opposition groups.