THE Turkish president has vowed to expand military operations across northern Syria and even into neighbouring Iraq after his forces drove Syrian Kurdish fighters from the northern city of Afrin.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the two-month Afrin campaign was the “most important phase” of the military operation launched on January 20, which is aimed at driving Syrian Kurdish forces out of areas along the Turkish border.

Ankara views the Syrian Kurdish militiamen as terrorists because of their links to Kurdish insurgents in Turkey.

Erdogan said Turkish troops and allied Syrian forces would now press eastward, toward the town of Manbij and areas east of the Euphrates River, including Ras al-Ayn and Ayn al-Arab. Those areas are controlled by US-backed Syrian Kurdish forces, and US troops are stationed there.

“We’ll continue this process until we completely abolish this corridor,” the president said.

He has repeatedly insisted he will not allow a “terror corridor” along its border.

Turkish troops could also cross into Iraq to drive out Kurdish militants from the region of Sinjar, if the Iraqi government does not act against militants in the area, according to Erdogan. Turkey claims the region is becoming a headquarters for outlawed Kurdish rebels who have been fighting an insurgency in Turkey’s south-east since 1984.

The president said his forces might also go as far as Qamishli, a Syrian town where the Syrian government controls the airport and a security zone.

EU diplomat, Federica Mogherini, told reporters in Brussels that international efforts in Syria should be aimed at “de-escalating the military activities and not escalating them”. She urged Turkey, Russia and Iran - who have brokered “de-escalation zones” around Syria - to ensure the agreements are implemented.

The Kurdish People’s Defence Units, or YPG, withdrew from Afrin after Turkish assaults over the weekend, but they have vowed to continue the fight.

Turkish media reported 11 people - seven civilians and four Turkish-backed Syrian fighters - were killed in an explosion in a building in the town centre on Sunday.