Turkey invades Syria; Russia, US on hotline now

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Turkey launched a military operation on Saturday code-named "Olive Branch" in Afrin in Syria, with three jets unleashing bombings in the area. Several TV networks have started showing visuals of dozens of tanks and armoured vehicles crossing over the border.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has confirmed that the military operation in Syria's Afrin has "actively" started. His spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, tweeted: "In its second day, OliveBranchOperation continues to ensure peace and security for our people, protect Syria's territorial integrity and eliminate all terrorist elements in the region... Turkey expects its allies to support its fight against terrorism in all of its forms."

Ankara has defended the sudden move as a plausible means to protect its national security and to clear its borders of the People's Protection Units (YPG), which it considers the Syrian affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also held a phone conversation with US counterpart Rex Tillerson in the wake of the announcement of the air strikes, said an official, reports Xinhua news agency. He had informed the envoys of Iran, Russia and the US earlier about the air attacks on Afrin.

Soon after the attacks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson opened their hotline and discussed the possible measure to ensure stability in northern Syria.

The Russian Foreign Ministry on Saturday said Lavrov and Tillerson also discussed promoting a peaceful settlement of the Syrian conflict under the auspices of the United Nations, which should be facilitated by the Syrian National Dialogue Congress to be held in Russia's city of Sochi with broad participation, Xinhua reported.

While the attacks have been described as official beginning of the Turkish military campaign against the Syrian Kurdish fighters, Russia withdrew its servicemen from Afrin and urged the opposing sides to exercise restraint.