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Kurds vow to liberate Afrin from Turkish occupation

KURDISH forces have vowed to liberate occupied Afrin in northern Syria from Turkish and jihadist groups, saying it will be their priority once Isis has met its demise in the east of the country.

The jihadist death cult’s remaining fighters are holed up in a 700-square-metre pocket in the village of Baghouz in Deir Ezzor province and the final defeat of the caliphate is believed to be imminent.

The general military council of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) met in the north-eastern city of Hasaka yesterday to discuss strategic priorities for the coming months.

Addressing fears that Isis could regroup following its defeat, the SDF said forces would be trained to wipe out jihadist sleeper cells by “drying the social, intellectual and economic ground” on which they depend.

Kurdish forces are set to focus on the “liberation of Afrin,” which was invaded and occupied by Turkish forces and their jihadist allies in the Free Syrian Army last January.

“The meeting considered that the liberation of Afrin, the return of its original inhabitants to their homes and stopping the processes of demographic change [are among] the priorities of the next stage,” the council said in a statement.

More than 170,000 people were forced to flee their homes following the Turkish invasion, amid allegations of extrajudicial executions and chemical attacks on civilians.

Turkey views the People’s Protection Units — the major component of the SDF — as terrorists linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party, which has a waged 40-year guerilla insurgency on Turkish soil.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to expand Turkish operations to the Syrian city of Manbij, with many observers warning of a brutal genocide of Kurds if he presses ahead with his plans.

The SDF accused Turkish forces of occupying Syrian territories in Afrin, al-Bab, Jrablos and Idlib and reiterated calls to solve problems “through dialogue and mutual respect.”

But the council added: “At the same time, we stressed the full readiness to protect our areas in the event of any aggression and welcome the establishment of the buffer zone under international supervision in order to establish security and peace on our northern border.”

Responding to calls for negotiations by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — who warned Syria’s Kurds that the US would not protect them from Turkey — the SDF said it hoped to find a solution through dialogue within the framework of a unified Syria, including “the constitutional recognition of the autonomous administration of north and east Syria.”

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