Thursday 21 June 2018

Turkey 'will expand its Kurdish offensive' to Iraq border

Empty shells are seen next to a Turkish army howitzer on the Turkish-Syrian border in Hatay province, Turkey. Photo: Reuters
Empty shells are seen next to a Turkish army howitzer on the Turkish-Syrian border in Hatay province, Turkey. Photo: Reuters

Sara Elizabeth Williams

Turkey's military operation to sweep Kurdish militants from its southern borders could soon be expanded as far east as Iraq, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday.

Mr Erdogan vowed to "clean up" the Syrian city of Manbij, north-east of Aleppo, and continue pushing east in a move which could draw US troops into the intensifying conflict.

"We will rid Manbij of terrorists, as it was promised to us, and our battles will continue until no terrorist is left until our border with Iraq," Mr Erdogan said yesterday.

US soldiers are currently stationed in Manbij alongside members of the YPG, a Syrian Kurdish militia. An expansion of Turkey's ground and aerial assault on the YPG to Manbij could result in conflict with US troops.

Mr Erdogan's announcement brings Turkey and its Nato ally the US uncomfortably close to a military confrontation inside Syria, where the US supports the YPG and has given it a central role in a new 30,000-strong border protection force.

Turkey views the YPG as a terrorist group with close links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party. Mr Erdogan has sworn to "destroy" the group and the "army of terror" he accuses the US of engineering inside Syria.

While diplomatic relations between the US and Turkey have been markedly chilly since the July 2015 coup attempt, the past weeks have seen a dramatic unravelling in ties between the two countries.

The issue of the YPG has emerged as a particular wedge, with neither country apparently willing to back down from its position.

Turkey's push into Syria was long telegraphed by Ankara, as has been the possibility for its expansion. Despite this, Ankara has suggested a willingness to work alongside Washington, should the two agree on common goals. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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