Tuesday, March 20, 2018
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Turkey to set up refugee camps near Syria's Idlib

Establishment of camps is in case of civilian exodus from Afrin where Turkey is fighting Kurdish fighters, official says.

Turkey will set up refugee camps with a total capacity of 170,000 at various locations under the control of Turkish army and Turkish-backed rebels, Hami Aksoy, the Turkish foreign ministry spokesman, said.

Aksoy told reporters in the capital Ankara on Tuesday that the camps are in the process of being built by the Turkish Red Crescent and Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (AFAD), according to state-run Anadolu Agency.

The spokesman said that the camps would be located in Idlib, as well as the areas of Azaz, Albil, Tugli, Tal Afar, Naddah, Bardakli and Mashad Rufi.

"We are regularly dispatching humanitarian aid, including shelter, food, and sanitary and medical supplies to the region," Aksoy said, adding that the establishment of new camps is in case of a large civilian exodus from Afrin.

Turkey launched an operation on January 20 against the US-backed Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in its border stronghold of Afrin in northwestern Syria. Turkey sees the YPG as a "terrorist" group.

Aksoy also condemned Pentagon spokesman Colonel Rob Manning, who said the operation in Afrin harmed the efforts against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) in northeastern Syria after Kurdish fighters there moved to Afrin to fight against the Turkish forces.

Aksoy criticised Manning for calling a senior member of the YPG a "general", according to the state media. 

"The Pentagon spokesman once again continued to speak nonsense," Aksoy said.

Stained relations

Relations between NATO allies, Washington and Ankara, have been strained over a number of issues, notably the US arming of the YPG.

READ MORE: Suicide bomber strikes US embassy in Turkey

Turkey considers the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria and its armed wing, the YPG, to be "terrorist" groups with ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), active in Turkey.

The PKK has waged a decades-long armed fight against the Turkish state that has killed tens of thousands of people.

Turkey has repeatedly called on Washington to stop working with the YPG.

The US, in return, has expressed concern about the current Turkish operation, dubbed "Olive Branch", and urged restraint from Turkey.

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