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Russia alarmed, US worried as Turkey announces new military operation in northern Syria

President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan with soldiers in the Yuksekova district of Hakkari (File image courtesy: Twitter/@trpresidency)

Russia has said that it has "received with alarm" reports of Turkey launching a new military operation in northern Syria which could allow Ankara to take 600 kilometers of the border under its control.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had announced on Wednesday that his country is getting ready to mount an operation in northern Syria to counter the growing threat from People's Protection Units (YPG), the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

"We are entering a new phase of our decision to establish safe zone 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) deep south (of the Turkish-Syrian border). We are clearing Tel Rifat and Manbij of terrorists," Erdogan was quoted as saying by the local media.

Erdogan had also accused both the United States and Russia of not living up to their commitments to provide such a safe zone in the border region.

However, Moscow said that it hopes that Ankara will refrain from actions that could lead to a dangerous deterioration of the already difficult situation in Syria.

"Such a step, in the absence of the consent of the legitimate government of the Syrian Arab Republic, would constitute a direct violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic (SAR), and would provoke an additional escalation of tension in this country," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said on Thursday.

The Kremlin said that it believes that reliable security on the Syrian-Turkish border can only be ensured by deploying military personnel of the SAR law enforcement agencies in the area adjacent to it.

"This would be a practical reflection of Ankara's more than once official statements about respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria," said Zakharova.

Earlier this week, after his meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had said that Washington supports the current ceasefire lines and would oppose any escalation in northern Syria.

"The concern that we have is that any new offensive would undermine regional stability, such as it is, provide malign actors with opportunities to exploit instability for their own purpose. We continue, effectively, to take the fight through partners to Daesh, to ISIS within Syria, and we don’t want to see anything that jeopardizes the efforts that are made to continue to keep ISIS in the box that we put it in," said Blinken.

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