Turkey warns of of­fen­sive against Syr­ian Kurds

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Turkey is launch­ing a new mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion against Syr­ian Kur­dish groups east of the Euphrates River, Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan said yes­ter­day.

Ankara will soon launch “more ef­fec­tive op­er­a­tions” against “ter­ror groups”, Mr Er­do­gan told Turkey’s pro-govern­ment news­pa­per Yeni Safak.

Just days ago he is­sued a fi­nal warn­ing to “those who would en­dan­ger Turkey’s borders”.

Ear­lier on Sun­day, Turkey fired ar­tillery shells at Kur­dish Peo­ple’s Pro­tec­tion Units (YPG) east of the Euphrates, in the Kobane re­gion of north­ern Syria.

Although the YPG is backed by the United States, Ankara con­sid­ers it a ter­ror­ist group and an ex­ten­sion of the out­lawed Kur­dis­tan Work­ers’ Party, which has led an in­sur­gency in Turkey for more than three decades.

Turkey also fought YPG forces in the Afrin re­gion of north­ern Syria. The YPG took con­trol of large ar­eas of north­east Syria in 2012 as govern­ment forces pulled out to fight rebels in the west.

Yes­ter­day, Turkey re­sponded to Syr­ian govern­ment ac­cu­sa­tions it was not meeting its obli­ga­tions to cre­ate a demil­i­tarised zone around Idlib, the last rebel-held prov­ince.

Turkey’s For­eign Min­is­ter, Mev­lut Cavu­soglu, said there were no is­sues ob­struct­ing im­ple­men­ta­tion.

“Ev­ery­thing is go­ing as planned,” he said in Is­tan­bul.

The Krem­lin said Turkey was do­ing its best to ful­fil its obli­ga­tions un­der the deal. “We don’t see a threat so far. Un­for­tu­nately, not ev­ery­thing is go­ing as it was planned,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov said yes­ter­day.

Syr­ian For­eign Min­is­ter Walid Al Muallem said on Mon­day that Ankara was un­will­ing to im­ple­ment the agree­ment last month with Rus­sia, Pres­i­dent Bashar Al As­sad’s most pow­er­ful ally.

The Turk­ish-Rus­sian agree­ment es­tab­lished a buf­fer zone of 15 to 20 kilo­me­tres deep into rebel ter­ri­tory, which was to be free of heavy weapons and militants by half­way through this month.

But some fight­ers, in­clud­ing Al Qaeda’s for­mer af­fil­i­ate in Syria, have yet to with­draw since the dead­line.

“The ter­ror­ists still ex­ist with their heavy arms in this re­gion and this is an in­di­ca­tor of Turkey’s un­will­ing­ness to ful­fil its obli­ga­tions,” Mr Al Muallem said in Da­m­as­cus.

In eastern Syria, Kur­dish spe­cial forces massed around an ISIS pocket near the Iraqi bor­der in prepa­ra­tion for a fi­nal push against the group.

The Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights said yes­ter­day that more than 500 spe­cial forces from the YPG and its fe­male af­fil­i­ate, the YPJ, mo­bilised around the last ISIS hold­out to help the US-backed Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces launch an as­sault.

Thou­sands of SDF fight­ers, in­clud­ing Arab fight­ers of the Deir Ez­zor Mil­i­tary Coun­cil, have also gath­ered in the area, which stretches from the Ha­jin pocket to the Iraqi bor­der.

US coali­tion war­planes re­sumed air strikes on ISIS po­si­tions yes­ter­day and Iraq’s Shi­ite para­mil­i­tary groups say they are on high alert to con­front any at­tempts by ISIS to cross the bor­der into Iraq.


A Pales­tinian pro­tester uses a sling­shot dur­ing clashes af­ter protests near the bor­der be­tween Is­rael and the north­ern Gaza Strip. One Pales­tinian was killed and more than 80 in­jured dur­ing the clashes

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