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Syria ceasefire must apply to Afrin, Macron tells Erdogan

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Free Syrian Army fighters at Salwah, near the Turkish border, last week OMAR HAJ KADOUR / AFP

The ceasefire in Syria called for by the UN Security Council must apply to Afrin, where Turkish forces are fighting Kurdish militias, French President Emmanuel Macron told his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday. Macron said there was an "absolute imperative" that hostilities cease across the country, as the Security Council unanimously demanded on Saturday.


The UN on Monday renewed its appeal for an immediate 30-day truce in Syria, amid reports of more deaths in air strikes in the besieged rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area.

Addressing the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said Security Council resolutions were "only meaningful if they are effectively implemented and that is why I expect the resolution to be immediately implemented and sustained".

At least 540 people have been killed in Eastern Ghouta by government air and artillery strikes since hostilities escalated eight days ago, according to a medical charity.

Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday urged Russia to exert "maximum pressure" on Bashar al-Assad's regime for immediate implementation of the ceasefire.

But new air strikes were reported on Monday morning.

Erdogan presses on with Afrin offensive

In a phone call, Macron told Erdogan of his "intense concern" about continued attacks on civilians and hospitals in Eastern Ghouta.

But he went on to insist that the ceasefire call also applied to Afrin, where Erdogan's forces and Free Syrian Army rebels are fighting the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).

Turkey says the YPG are an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been fighting the Turkish state for three decades.

Erdogan said that precautions have been taken to avoid civilian losses but said the offensive will continue "until the last terrorist has been eliminated".

He says that 2,000 have been killed since the offensive was launched on 20 January.

Turkish government spokesman and Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said on Monday that special forces with experience of fighting the PKK have entered Afrin in anticipation of a "new fight".

The fighting is at present in villages and the countryside far from the centre of Afrin city, he said.