Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan strongly signalled an imminent military operation against Kurds in northern Syria at a meeting of the political party he heads.
Erdogan on Saturday, January 13 told a provincial congress of the AK Parti in the eastern province of Elazıg that the Turkish armed forces could launch operations in the city of Manbij and the majority Kurdish canton of Efrin if the predominantly Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) do not withdraw, repeating the rhetoric that the group is aiming to establish a “terror corridor” on Turkey’s southern border.
Turkey launched the Euphrates Shield offensive in northern Syria in 2016 to both push Islamic State away from the border and to prevent the Efrin canton from geographically joining the rest of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria.
“With the Euphrates Shield operation we cut the terror corridor right in the middle. We hit them one night suddenly. With the Idlib operation, we are collapsing the western wing,” Erdogan said, referring to Efrin.
“In Manbij, if they break the promises, we will take the matter in our own hands until there are no terrorists left. They will see what we’ll do in about a week,” Erdogan said. “If the terrorists in Efrin don’t surrender we will tear them down.”
Later on Saturday, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported that Turkish artillery in Turkey and Syria had struck positions in Efrin.
On Tuesday, Erdogan warned that “the time has come to completely destroy the separatist organization’s project aiming to create a Syrian terror corridor. We will complete the step we took during the Euphrates Shield Operation by continuing in Efrin and Manbij,” Yeni Safak reported.
Turkey views the predominantly Kurdish YPG and its linked PYD political party as extensions of the Turkish Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought a decades-long insurgency mainly in Turkey’s majority-Kurdish southwest. The PKK is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union, among others, but the YPG is not so designated by the U.S. or E.U.
Erdogan criticises US support for SDF
According to the pro-AKP Daily Sabah newspaper, Erdogan said Turkey will act unilaterally against the YPG, which forms the backbone of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.
“Making a terrorist wear uniform, and flying your country’s flag over the buildings they use does not change any facts. Thousands of weapons sent to the region are already on the black market and some of them are being used against us,” Erdogan said. “The U.S. sent 4,900 trucks of weapons in Syria. We know this. This is not what allies do,” Erdogan said. “We know they sent 2,000 planes full of weapons.”