BEIRUT – The Latest on the Syrian conflict (all times local):
Turkey's president says its incursion into a Kurdish-held enclave in Syria is progressing "successfully" and will continue until the last "terrorist" is eliminated.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday renewed a threat to extend the offensive east to the city of Manbij, which is under the control of U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters. He said he plans to "foil games along our borders starting from Manbij," adding that "we will clean our region from this trouble completely."
Erdogan said that Turkish troops and allied Syrian fighters have killed at least 268 Syrian Kurdish fighters since the operation against the Afrin enclave was launched on Jan. 20. He said Turkish troops have suffered seven or eight losses.
Ankara views the main Syrian Kurdish militia in northern Syria as a threat because of its links to Kurdish insurgents fighting in southeastern Turkey. The Syrian Kurds are the main U.S. ally against the Islamic State group in Syria, and played a key role in driving the extremists from much of the country's northeast. The U.S. has urged Turkey, a NATO ally, to exercise restraint.
Syria has dismissed recent reports of chemical attacks in the war-torn country as "lies."
The United States and 28 other countries are launching a new initiative to better identify and punish anyone who uses chemical weapons, amid new reports of a suspected chemical attack on the rebel-held suburbs of Damascus.
The U.S. says Russia, a key ally of the government, shares blame for the use of chemical weapons in Syria because it vetoed the renewal of an expert body that determined responsibility for such attacks.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that French and U.S. allegations of new chemical attacks were part of the "systematic targeting of Syria." It blamed Western countries for blocking probes and pressuring investigators after previous chemical attacks.
In 2013, the U.S. and Russia reached an agreement to remove all chemical weapons from Syria. There have been several reported chemical attacks since then.
A top Russian diplomat has accused the United States of promoting unverified reports about chemical weapons attacks in Syria in order to cloud Russia's peace initiatives.
Russia is hosting Syria peace talks in the Black Sea resort of Sochi next week that some Syrian opposition figures said will run counter to U.N. peace initiatives.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in an interview with the Interfax news agency on Wednesday that the U.S. is promoting "rigged, unverified reports" of the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria to hamper Russia's peace efforts.
Ryabkov's remarks came a day after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Moscow "ultimately bears responsibility for the victims" of a new suspected chemical attack outside the Syrian capital Damascus.