Wednesday 23 January 2019

Erdogan plans attack on US's Kurdish allies

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: REUTERS
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: REUTERS

Emile Laurac

Turkey will launch a new operation in Syria within days against a US-backed Kurdish militia that Ankara considers a terrorist group, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday.

"We will start an operation to free the east of the Euphrates from the separatist terrorist organisation in the next few days," Mr Erdogan said during a speech in Ankara, referring to territory held by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).

Turkey says the YPG is a "terrorist offshoot" of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.

The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies.

US forces have worked closely with the YPG under the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance against Isil. "The target is never American soldiers but terrorist organisation members," Mr Erdogan said.

There are US forces with the SDF east of the Euphrates as well as in the flashpoint city of Manbij, west of the river.

Washington's relationship with the YPG, seen as a key ally, is one of the main sources of tension between Turkey and the US. Ankara has repeatedly lambasted Washington for providing military support to the Kurdish militia.

Mr Erdogan has previously threatened to attack YPG areas. In a bid to avoid any clash, the Nato allies agreed a "roadmap" for Manbij.

His comments came a day after the Pentagon announced the setting up of observation posts on the north-east Syria border region to prevent fights between the Turkish army and the YPG.

Irish Independent

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