President Recep Tayyip Erdogan today threatened to expand Turkey's offensive in Syria against a Kurdish militia, despite rising concern and calls for restraint from the US and other Western allies.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan today threatened to expand Turkey’s offensive in Syria against a Kurdish militia, despite rising concern and calls for restraint from the US and other Western allies. In the seventh day of the operation against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia, Erdogan vowed to “clean up” the Syrian city of Manbij. The United States has raised concerns over the deadly offensive, and analysts say direct military conflict between the two NATO powers is possible since the US has a military presence in Manbij. Turkey launched operation “Olive Branch” against the YPG on Saturday, supporting Syrian rebels with ground troops, air strikes and artillery fire. While the YPG is still working closely with Washington against the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Ankara views the YPG as a terror organisation allied to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) inside Turkey.
The PKK is blacklisted by Ankara and its Western allies as a terror outfit. Erdogan vowed in a speech in Ankara that Turkey would “continue our fight until there is no terrorist on our border”, but did not elaborate. He said the operation would last until “we reach our goals,” adding: “Afterwards we will, as promised, clean up Manbij of terrorists.” But Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Friday insisted Turkey was not intending to occupy Afrin and would return the region to its “real” owners. Tensions between Ankara and Washington are already high but the offensive has added further strain to their relationship. The two sides disagreed about the content of telephone talks between Erdogan and US President Donald Trump on Wednesday. Washington said Trump had urged Turkey to “limit its military actions” but a Turkish official said the US statement did “not accurately reflect the content” of the call. Erdogan criticised Turkey’s allies, including the United States, which he said called for the operation to be “short” and “limited” in scope, referring to previous interventions. “How long has Afghanistan lasted? Nearly 20 years. How long has it (the conflict) lasted in Iraq? Nearly 18 years!” he thundered.