Turkey denies troops entered Syria

Turkish armoured vehicles patrol at the south-eastern town of Nusaybin, 14 FebImage copyright

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Turkey’s defence minister says there is “no thought of Turkish soldiers entering Syria”

Turkey has denied reports that some of its soldiers have entered Syria, the state-run Anadolu news agency says.

Defence Minister Ismet Yilmaz also told a parliamentary commission it was not considering deploying troops there.

In letters of complaint to the UN, Syria had earlier accused Turkey of allowing about 100 “Turkish soldiers or mercenaries” – to cross into Syria.

It urged the UN to take action against Turkish shelling in northern Syria, calling it a violation of sovereignty.

Turkey had shelled Kurdish forces over the weekend as they advanced in northern Aleppo province.

The Kurds have been capturing areas from Syrian rebel forces who are also fighting President Bashar al-Assad.

Ankara views the Kurdish militia in Syria as allied to the outlawed PKK, which has carried out a decades-long campaign for autonomy in Turkey.

Separately, the Turkish armed forces said one of its soldier was killed on Sunday evening in a border clash with a group seeking to enter Turkey illegally, Reuters reported.

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On Monday, Mr Yilmaz said reports of Turkish troops inside Syria were “not true”, Anadolu reported.

Media captionThe horrifying statistics that define Syria

Mr Yilmaz added: “There is no thought of Turkish soldiers entering Syria.”

In his comments to the parliamentary commission, Mr Yilmaz also denied that Saudi Arabian aircraft had arrived in Turkey to help with operations against so-called Islamic State (IS), but said a decision had been taken for Saudi Arabia to send four F-16s.

The Syrian government had earlier said in letters to the UN Secretary General and the Security Council’s chairman that Turkey had allowed about 100 gunmen – believed to be either “Turkish soldiers or Turkish mercenaries” – to cross into Syria.

Syria believes the gunmen are trying to supply insurgents fighting in Damascus.

The letters to the UN said that “Turkish artillery shelling of Syrian territory constitutes direct support to the armed terrorist organisations”.

“[Syria] will maintain its legitimate right to respond to the Turkish crimes and attacks and to claim compensation for the damage caused,” they said.

The United States and others back the Kurdish militia in Syria, the YPG, in its fight against so-called Islamic State.

The YPG has rejected Turkey’s demand to leave areas it has seized, saying Islamists would return if it left.

The BBC’s Mark Lowen in Istanbul says Turkey’s action against the Kurds has opened a new front in Syria – the stage for several proxy wars already.

Last Thursday in Munich, world leaders pledged to work towards a cessation of hostilities in Syria within a week,

But Russia argues that the “cessation” does not apply to its air strikes, which have tilted the balance of the war in favour of the Syrian government.

Russia has been carrying out air strikes since September in support of Mr Assad and against what it terms “terrorists”.

Almost five years of civil war in Syria have led to the deaths of more than 250,000 people. More than 11 million people have been displaced.

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