Turkish government on Wednesday said it was ready to take any steps necessary against a Syrian Kurdish militia to ensure the security of its borders, as speculation mounted of an imminent cross border operation.
The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia controls key Syrian northern towns including Manbij and Afrin and is an ally of the US but Ankara accuses the group of being a terror organisation.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan this week also threatened to destroy a planned US-backed 30,000-strong border security force in northern Syria that would be composed partly of YPG fighters, describing it as an “army of terror”.
“Turkey will not allow the creation of a terror corridor or a terror army on its borders and is ready to take any steps necessary in this regard,” said a statement after a meeting of the National Security Council (MGK) chaired by Erdogan.
“It was emphasised that we are ready, immediately and decisively, to take the steps needed to eliminate the threats… coming from the west of Syria,” it added.
Turkey has in recent days sent dozens of military vehicles to the border area amid repeated threats from top officials that an operation on Afrin could be launched at any moment.
It remains to be seen if, when and what kind of operation could be launched, with Turkey keen to avoid upsetting Russia which has a military presence in the area.
The MGK statement again slammed the US support for the YPG — an ally of Washington in the fight against Islamic State (IS) jihadists — saying it was “regrettable” that a NATO ally had “declared terrorists as a partner”.
It said all weapons given to the YPG by the United States should be gathered up “without delay”.
Turkey accuses the YPG of merely being the Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which has waged a rebellion in the Turkish southeast for more than three decades and is regarded as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies.
The row is the latest dispute between Turkey and the United States that goes beyond the YPG and Syria to include arguments over a New York court case, detained US consulate staffers and the prosecution of Erdogan’s bodyguards in the United States.
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Author: Our Correspondents