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Turkey Accuses Syrian Kurds of 'Ethnic Cleansing'

Turkey said it will continue extending its observer mission in Syria's Idlib province in order to deter what it described as "ethnic cleansing" by Kurdish groups in northern Syria. At the same time, the YPG reported heavy artillery fire by Turkish forces on villages in Afrin.

"PKK/PYD/YPG terrorist organization's efforts to carry out covert ethnic cleansing by changing the demographic structure of Syria are against international law and human rights, and, therefore, it is unacceptable," read a statement issued by the National Security Council after a meeting chaired by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday.

Turkey used a similar accusation of ethnic cleansing when launching its military operation Euphrates Shield in summer 2016, saying that the Kurdish forces were taking control of areas with predominantly Arab populations.

Saying that Turkey must take every measure to ensure its security along its border with Syria, the council said Turkey's armed forces had been successful in its observer mission in Syria's Idlib province and "peace and security will literally be achieved when this mission is carried out near western Aleppo and Afrin."

Turkish Armed Forces completed work on their third observation point in Idlib on November 19.

They will reportedly set up 12 such sites, according to Hurriyet Daily News.

Turkey began its operations in Idlib in October in order to monitor a ceasefire and establish a de-escalation zone under agreements reached in Astana by Turkey, Russia, and Iran.

Turkey is also using the mission to observe the Kurdish canton of Afrin, north of Idlib. Kurdish forces say the Turks have frequently fired at their positions and civilian locations in Afrin.

On Tuesday evening, the YPG announced areas in the countryside of northern Afrin were under heavy artillery fire from Turkish forces, adding "civilians of three villages are in danger because of shelling."

Last week, Turkey accused the YPG of opening fire on them across the Afrin-Idlib border.

Turkey considers the armed YPG and its political wing the PYD as extensions of the PKK, a named terrorist organization. The Syrian Kurdish groups deny the charge.

The YPG is the dominant force within the US-backed SDF battling ISIS in northern Syria.

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