President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey is fully prepared for a possible operation on the border with Syria to push back militants from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in case the United States fails to create a so-called safe zone in the northeastern part of the Arab country this month.
“Our preparations along the border have been completed,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul on Saturday ahead of his flight to New York to attend a UN General Assembly meeting.
He roundly criticized the continued support of the US for the YPG, saying Washington was providing the Kurdish militants with arms.
“We have no desire to get into a confrontation with the US. But in a place where the United States is not invited, we cannot afford to ignore the support it has given to terrorist organizations. In other words, their support for terrorist organizations such as the YPG is obvious,” Erdogan noted.
The Turkish president then pointed to the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – to which the YPG plays as the backbone, saying he would discuss their presence in northern Syria as well as the withdrawal of US troops from the conflict-plagued Arab country with his US counterpart Donald Trump on the sidelines of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly.
Erdogan has given the US until the end of the current month for concrete results on the development of a purported safe zone on Turkey’s border with Syria.
On September 10, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the United States was stalling attempts to establish such a zone, reaffirming that Ankara was ready to act on its own if necessary to confront YPG militants.
“Yes, there are some joint patrols but other than that, the steps that have been taken or the steps that are said to be taken are cosmetic steps,” he told reporters at the time.
“We are seeing that the United States is entering a stalling process … and that it is trying to get Turkey accustomed to this stalling process,” he added, arguing that Washington’s approach has so far served the YPG more than Turkey.
Turkey’s Defense Ministry announced the start of the joint US-Turkish ground patrols east of the Euphrates in northeastern Syria in a post published on its official Twitter page on September 8, and said the patrols are being supported by unmanned aerial vehicles.
Syria strongly condemned the decision on the same day, arguing that the move constitutes a blatant violation of international law and the Syrian sovereignty.
“The Syrian Arab Republic condemns in the strongest terms the US administration and the Turkish regime for conducting joint patrols in the Syrian al-Jazirah region, which is in flagrant violation of the international law as well as the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria,” an unnamed official source at the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates told Syria’s official news agency SANA at the time.
“Syria stresses that this step represents (an act of) aggression in every sense of the word, and is meant to complicate and prolong the Syrian crisis in the wake of the Syrian Arab Army’s achievements in pursuit of remnants of terrorist groups.”
The source said the Syrian Arab Republic, while reiterating its rejection of the so-called safe area, dismisses all projects aimed at undermining the unity and territorial integrity of the country.
The patrols came after Turkey and the US reached an agreement on August 7 over the establishment of a joint operation center in the northern part of Syria, in the wake of Ankara’s threats to launch an operation against YPG militants to push them away from the Turkish border.
Turkey views the YPG as the Syria branch of the homegrown Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group, which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since 1984.
Turkey expects the creation of a 32-kilometer (20-mile) safe zone in northern Syria, and has stressed that it wants the YPG cleared from the region.