TURKEY

FM Çavuşoğlu, US counterpart Tillerson discuss Afrin operation at Paris meeting

FM ÇAVUŞOĞLU, US COUNTERPART TILLERSON DISCUSS AFRIN OPERATION AT PARIS MEETING

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu discussed Operation Olive Branch with his U.S. counterpart Rex Tillerson on the sidelines of the International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons hosted by the French Foreign Ministry in Paris, diplomatic sources said Tuesday.

Çavuşoğlu announced later on Tuesday that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his American counterpart Donald Trump would speak over the phone on Wednesday.

He said Trump wished to make the phone call. "The time has also been finalized," Çavuşoğlu added, without giving any further details.

Tillerson announced Monday that the U.S. hopes to work with Turkey to try to create a security zone in northwestern Syria to meet its legitimate security needs.

The United States has told Turkey, "let us see if we can work with you to create the kind of security zone you might need," he said, according to a reporter traveling with him to Paris.

"So we're in discussions with the Turks, and some of the forces on the ground as well, as to how we can stabilize this situation and meet Turkey's legitimate concerns for their security," Tillerson added.

The U.S. Secretary of State also previously called Çavuşoğlu over Turkey's counter-terror operation in northern Syria's Afrin, diplomatic sources said.

Operation Olive Branch was launched Saturday, targeting the PKK terror group's Syrian affiliates the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing People's Protection Units (YPG), as well as the remaining Daesh elements in Afrin region on the Turkish-Syrian border.

According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkish borders and the region as well as to protect the Syrian people from the oppression and cruelty of terrorists.

The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey's rights based on international law, U.N. Security Council resolutions, its right to self-defense under the U.N. charter and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.

The operation in Afrin – bordering Turkey's Hatay and Kilis provinces – was widely expected in the wake of Turkey's Operation Euphrates Shield in northern Syria, which cleared Daesh terrorists from Turkey's border between Aug. 24, 2016, and March 2017.

Afrin has been a major hideout for the PYD/PKK since July 2012 when the Assad regime in Syria left the city to the terror group without putting up a fight.

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