Syria's Assad slams Turkey offensive as 'support for terrorism'

President Bashar al-Assad condemned Turkey's offensive against Kurdish militia in the northern Syrian region of Afrin, saying it was part of Ankara's support for extremist groups

President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday condemned Turkey's offensive against Kurdish militia in the northern Syrian region of Afrin, saying it was part of Ankara's support for extremist groups.

Turkey and allied Syrian rebels entered the Afrin region on Sunday, a day after launching their offensive against the Kurdish-controlled area.

"The brutal Turkish aggression on the Syrian town of Afrin cannot be separated from the Turkish regime's policy from the first day of Syria's crisis, which was essentially built on supporting terrorism and terrorist organisations, whatever their names," Assad said in statements carried by state news agency SANA.

Since Syria's conflict broke out in 2011, the government has repeatedly slammed Ankara for its support of rebels, accusing it of funding jihadist factions.

As Turkish threats of a potential attack escalated last week, Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad warned that Syria could shoot down Turkish warplanes used in an assault.

But the Damascus regime has also previously taken a hard line against the Kurdish authorities, which have implemented semi-autonomous institutions across parts of northern Syria, including Afrin.

On Saturday, a foreign ministry official denied claims by Turkish authorities that it had been informed of the Afrin offensive and called the attack "the latest move in Turkey's attacks on Syria's sovereignty".