Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Baqeri says Turkish military operations in Syria’s northwestern region of Afrin must not harm the Arab country’s territorial integrity, independence and national sovereignty.
In a telephone conversation with Turkish Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar on Sunday, Baqeri said Turkey must give assurances that it does not covet any part of the Syrian soil.
Turkey launched “Operation Olive Branch,” a new air and ground operation targeting the Afrin region, on Friday to oust the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara views as a terror organization and the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The senior Iranian commander emphasized that such moves should not pave the way for the enemies of the Syrian nation and the Muslim world, particularly the United States and its allies, to exploit the situation to achieve their own goals.
“These military measures should not harm tripartite political negotiations and the Astana [peace] talks, which have so far managed to produce success,” Baqeri said.
Turkey, Iran and Russia are the guarantors of a countrywide ceasefire in Syria. The three have been mediating a peace process since January 2016 among Syria’s warring sides in Astana, Kazakhstan.
As part of the Astana format, four de-escalation zones have been established across Syria amid ongoing political efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in the country.
The zones have helped reduce fighting significantly, while giving Turkey a breath to beef up security along its southern borders.
The Turkish chief of general staff, for his part, said his country’s army carried out the military assault in Afrin in line with its right to legitimate defense.
Akar added that Turkey respected Syria’s territorial integrity and would remain committed to agreements reached with Iran and Russia.
Earlier in the day, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said Tehran was closely monitoring Turkish military assault on Syria’s Afrin, calling for the swift cessation of the operation in the Arab country to prevent the escalation of crisis in Turkey-Syria border areas.
“The continuation of the crisis in Afrin may lead to restrengthening of Takfiri-terrorist groups in Syria’s northern areas and once again fan the flames of war and destruction in this country,” he added.
The Turkish General Staff said in a statement that Turkish warplanes and artillery units had hit 153 positions of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants so far.
“Operation Olive Branch continues as planned and the ground offensive has begun,” the military stated on the second day of the military operation.