20 January 2018, 14.00 hrs: the Turkish army has officially entered Syria on in the context of operation “Olive Branch”.

The battles had actually begun the night before but only with shells from Turkey against Kurdish forces under US command. The Turkish Minister for Defense (Nurettin Canikli), then declared the de facto beginning of the Turkish operation.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan confirmed the beginning of the operation during a televised speech given during the AKP Congress in the region of Kütahya (photo). The Turkish President made it clear that after cleaning the Syrian region of Afrine, the Turkish army would continue its mission right up to Manbij, also part of Syrian territory.

The Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, had declared that he had given the Syrian government advance written notice on the beginning of this Turkish military operation. However Syria had denied receiving this correspondence.

The Head of the Turkish Secret Services, Hakan Fidan, and the Turkish Chief of Staffs were in Moscow on 18 January.

Before the Turkish advance, Russia withdrew her troops, as a security measure.

The Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sergeï Lavrov, held a conference call with his US homologue, Rex Tillerson.

Mr. Tillerson had denied the incorrect words of a high official of US Defence Department according to which the US was preparing a permanent security force at the Syrian Turkish border of 30 000 men, half of which were Kurds. We had revealed on our website that the other half was trained by former Isis jihadists. Immediately following the US announcement, now denied by the Secretary of State, Turkey had threatened to commence a military operation against the establishment of a new terrorist force along its border with Syria.

Syrian Turkmen militia are participating in this operation on the side of the Turkish army.

Anoosha Boralessa