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850 sq km now under control in Afrin: Erdogan

850 sq km now under control in Afrin: Erdogan

Where there are terrorists, we'll be there, he added.

Turkey has been waging "Operation Olive Branch" against Syria's Afrin region since January 20 in a bid to eliminate the YPG, which forms the backbone of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that enjoys USA support.

The Kurdish YPG is contesting this claim, however, with YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud saying that the Turks are more like 10 to 15 km away from Afrin, and that they definitely do not have the city surrounded.

Speaking at a joint news conference with his Austrian counterpart Karin Kneissl, Cavusoglu told reporters in Vienna that Turkey wanted the operation to end as quickly as possible so that Afrin can "embrace stability and civilians can return". "We will defend Afrin and all the areas of Rojava from Turkey's advances".

"Then we will also clear Manbij, Ayn al-Arab, Tal Abyad, Resulayn and Kamisli of terrorists", Erdoğan said, naming other Syria cities near Turkey's borders. "And the next day we will ensure that terrorists are cleared east of the Euphrates River up to the Iraqi border", he said.

The terrorist organization continues to negotiate with Iran-backed groups to get Gubar back, the sources said.

Turkey has repeatedly called on the United States to stop working with the YPG.

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Turkey says they have ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), active in Turkey.

It has been listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the USA and the European Union.

The assault on Afrin is part of Operation Olive Branch, a Turkish military offensive to oust Kurdish fighters in northwestern Syria.

Since the beginning of the operation, the Turkish military and the Free Syrian Army have liberated 159 locations, including five town centers, 124 villages, 30 strategic areas, and one YPG/PKK base.

The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey's rights based on global law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defence rights under the UN charter and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.

It says more than 200 civilians have also been killed, but Turkey denies the reports and says it takes the "utmost care" to avoid civilian casualties.

He said in the initial phase 2,000 square kilometers (772.2 square miles) will be taken into control.

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