Turkey has started preparations to clear northern Syria's Ayn al-Arab, Ras al-Ain and Tel Abyad regions from PKK-linked People's Protection Units (YPG) terrorists up until the Iraqi border, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Friday, adding that it would also clear militants from Iraq.
Addressing ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) provincial chairpersons in Ankara, Erdoğan said Turkey has no intention of harming soldiers of allied nations positioned in the region, but that it could not allow militants to roam free.
The U.S. supports the YPG-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which its NATO ally Turkey regards as the extension of the PKK terrorist group. U.S. troops are positioned alongside YPG terrorists in Syria's Manbij.
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday it had assured the YPG of its support to stabilize northern Syria, prompting harsh reactions from Ankara.
Erdoğan reminded that Afrin region in northern Syria has been completely liberated by Turkish and Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces, adding that at least 3,800 terrorists have been "neutralized" in Operation Olive Branch since it was launched in northwestern Syria's Afrin.
The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) uses the term "neutralized" in reference to terrorists captured dead or alive, or those who surrendered during the operations. However, the term is usually used for the terrorists who were killed in the operations.
Erdoğan noted that the TSK also established 7 out of 12 control points in Syria's opposition held Idlib, which were agreed in a deescalation deal between Turkey, Russia and Iran.
The president underlined that Turkey will continue to protect the victims of the Syrian war, adding that it would not take a step back in its anti-terror operations.
Operation Olive Branch was launched by Turkey on Jan. 20 to remove the PKK/PYD/YPG/KCK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin in northwestern Syria, which had been a major hideout for the YPG/PKK since 2012 when the Assad regime in Syria left the city to the terror group without putting up a fight. On March 18, Turkish-backed troops liberated the town center of Afrin.
The operation in Afrin – bordering Turkey's Hatay and Kilis provinces – was widely expected in the wake of Turkey's Operation Euphrates Shield in northern Syria, which cleared Daesh terrorists from Turkey's border between Aug. 24, 2016, and March 2017.