Op­er­a­tions in Idlib, Afrin tar­get ter­ror­ist threats, Er­doğan says

The Turkish mil­i­tary’s cross-bor­der op­er­a­tions in Syria are to elim­i­nate ter­ror­ist groups that con­sti­tute threats to Turkey as in Idlib and Afrin in Syria, Pres­i­dent Er­doğan has said

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Politics -

er­doğan crit­i­cized the Western pres­ence in Iraq and Syria, and said that it is Turkey’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­tect the rights of its friends in the two coun­tries along its south­ern bor­ders. Turkey's mil­i­tary be­gan set­ting up ob­ser­va­tion posts in Idlib last month be­fore es­tab­lish­ing de-es­ca­la­tion zones to re­duce clashes be­tween the op­po­si­tion groups and the regime. On May 4, the guarantor coun­tries signed a deal in the Kazakh cap­i­tal of As­tana to es­tab­lish de-es­ca­la­tion zones in Syria. The May 4 de-es­ca­la­tion zone agree­ment en­vis­ages the halt of hos­til­i­ties be­tween Bashar As­sad regime forces and mod­er­ate op­po­si­tion groups within the zones, as well as the cre­ation of con­di­tions for hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­cess, med­i­cal as­sis­tance, the re­turn of dis­placed civil­ians to their homes and the restora­tion of dam­aged in­fra­struc­ture. Af­ter Idlib, mil­i­tary sources and Ankara have hinted at the pos­si­bil­ity of an of­fen­sive in Afrin province, which is cur­rently con­trolled by the Demo­cratic Union Party (PYD). The pres­i­dent had said in late Oc­to­ber that Turkey's op­er­a­tion in Idlib was largely com­plete, adding: "Now it's time for Afrin."

"As I have said be­fore, we can hit [Afrin] at any mo­ment."

In ad­di­tion to Daesh, Turkey also sees the pres­ence of the PYD and its armed Peo­ple’s Pro­tec­tion Units (YPG) a threat to its na­tional se­cu­rity. The PYD and YPG are the Syr­ian af­fil­i­ate of the PKK ter­ror­ist group, which is listed as such by the United States, EU and Turkey. Ankara also con­sid­ers the YPG to be ter­ror­ist group, while the U.S. does not and sup­ports the YPG un­der the um­brella of the Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces (SDF), claim­ing that they are the most ef­fec­tive part­ners in the fight against Daesh.

Wash­ing­ton’s sup­port for the PYD and YPG has an­gered Ankara, which says one ter­ror­ist group can­not be elim­i­nated by an­other, crit­i­ciz­ing the U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tion’s mil­i­tary sup­port of the group, ar­gu­ing that the arms sup­port given to the YPG ul­ti­mately ends up in the hands of PKK ter­ror­ists and are used against Turkey. As an al­ter­na­tive, the fight against Daesh should be car­ried out with lo­cal forces backed by coun­tries in the re­gion, and the de­mo­graphic sen­si­tiv­i­ties of the re­gion should be kept in mind, Ankara says.

The YPG's ul­ti­mate aim is to es­tab­lish au­ton­o­mous can­tons from north­west­ern Afrin to Kobani and Jazeera in the north­east. Mod­er­ate op­po­si­tion groups op­pose this, ar­gu­ing that it would threaten Syria's ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity.

The pres­i­dent also said that Turkey will con­tinue its op­er­a­tions against the PKK in the south­east­ern part of the coun­try.

Mean­while, U.S.-backed YPG have started to trans­fer a high num­ber of weapons to Afrin fol­low­ing the de­feat of Daesh to a large ex­tent, the Yeni Şafak daily re­ported on Fri­day.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, the Pen­tagon said 96 per­cent of Deash in Syria has been elim­i­nated. The re­port added that the Pen­tagon has be­gun to dis­patch am­mu­ni­tion to the YPG in Afrin.

Last week, three con­voys of hun­dreds of ve­hi­cles and mul­ti­ple rocket launch­ers reached Afrin, en­abling more than 2,000 ter­ror­ists to en­ter into the city, Yeni Şafak re­ported.

In Au­gust 2016, fol­low­ing a se­ries of at­tacks by the Daesh ter­ror­ist group in Syr­ian prov­inces along Turkey’s bor­der, Turkey launched Op­er­a­tion Euphrates Shield as a cross-bor­der of­fen­sive and cleared the bor­der from the Daesh pres­ence. In March 2017, the op­er­a­tion ended and the Syr­ian towns of Jarablus, al-Rai, Dabiq and alBab were cleared of the ter­ror­ist group.

Pres­i­dent Er­doğan said Turkey has to do ev­ery­thing for its na­tional and se­cu­rity in­ter­ests, cit­ing the Turkish mil­i­tary’s on­go­ing cross-bor­der ac­tiv­i­ties in Syria.

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