Ankara has decided to carry out a new military offensive in areas controlled by the PKK's Syrian affiliate, the People's Protection Units (YPG), in northern Syria in a bid to completely wipe out terror threats from its borders. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Friday reiterated Turkey's determination to bring peace to the area east of the Euphrates in Syria. "Turkey has lost enough time tackling the terrorist swamp east of the Euphrates. We cannot tolerate a delay of even a day for this," Erdoğan said, speaking at a conference of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul. Earlier this week, the president announced that Turkey would launch another anti-terrorism operation in northern Syria within a few days, targeting the area east of the Euphrates.
Addressing the YPG attack that came following his announcement of a new offensive, which left one Turkish soldier dead Thursday in Syria's northwestern Tel Rifaat province, Erdoğan said it proved the righteousness of Turkey's concerns in conducting Operation Olive Branch in Afrin. "This [attack] shows that the terrorists and weapons piling on our borders will eventually target us," the president added, slamming the U.S. for the continuing supply of arms and training to YPG terrorists.
One Turkish soldier was killed Thursday after YPG terrorists opened fire on Turkish units in northwestern Syria's Afrin, the Defense Ministry said on Thursday. A statement by the ministry said the attack was carried out from Tel Rifaat, and the Turkish military immediately retaliated.
Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch on Jan. 20 to remove terrorists from Afrin. The Turkish military and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) entered Afrin town center and liberated it from terrorists on March 18. This new offensive will be the country's third initiative to secure its border from the terrorists.
The president added that Turkey would also conduct an anti-terrorist operation in northeastern Manbij province if the U.S. fails to eject the YPG, which has been keeping the area under its control thanks to U.S. support, from the region.
"Manbij is a place 85-90 percent populated by Arabs, but they [the U.S.] have completely given it to a terrorist organization. They said we're going to eject them. They did not. If you don't, we will enter Manbij," Erdoğan said.
Meanwhile, President Erdoğan had a phone conversation with his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump on Friday, reportedly on the recent developments in Syria. While Erdoğan expressed his concerns over the YPG, both leaders agreed on maintaining active coordination in Syria.
The U.S. has been cooperating with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is an umbrella group consisting mostly of YPG terrorists, under the pretext of fighting against Daesh. This support remains as a source of tension between Washington and its NATO ally Ankara, which has been suffering from the PKK's decades-old deadly campaign against the state.
Still, to prevent the terror group from tightening its grip in northeast Syria and disrupting peace efforts in the region, Turkey aims to accelerate the Manbij road map that was decided on in June with the U.S. As part of the agreement, Turkey and the U.S. agreed to work on the withdrawal of the YPG from Manbij. The aim of the Manbij deal is to ensure security and stability in the province by eliminating YPG terrorists and ultimately handing the administration of the province to a body consisting of local people. Yet, progress in the deal, Ankara says, has been "sluggish" and slower than initially planned, due to what has been described as the disingenuous attitude of the U.S. over the plan.
Regarding Ankara's possible operation, U.S. Chief of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford called his Turkish counterpart Gen. Yaşar Güler, Col. Patrick S. Ryder, a spokesman for the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a statement. "The two commanders discussed security issues including U.S. observation posts built in northeastern Syria to address Turkey's security concerns," Ryder said.
Meanwhile, the U.S. special envoy to Syria, James Jeffrey, met with prominent PKK figures in northeastern Syria's Hasakah province, the Yeni Şafak daily reported on Friday. According to the report, PKK senior leaders told Jeffrey that the anti-Daesh fight would be interrupted in the event of a Turkish offensive. The terrorist organization has long been justifying its presence on Syrian soil by claiming it is the sole ground force in the fight against Daesh terrorism.
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