Erdogan promises to “crush” any threat to Turkey in northern Syria
Funeral by combatants of Popular Protection Units and civilians killed in clashes against rebels supported by Turkey and in airstrikes, respectively, in Afrin (Syria) this January 27, 2018
The Turkish Army offensive against a Kurdish allied militia of the United States in the north of Syria entered this Saturday in its second week with new air and artillery attacks, and the promise of Ankara to “crush” any threat.
Although several Western countries called for restraint, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday that his government is determined to “crush like a steamroller” any threat against Turkey.
Turkey has carried out an offensive in the Afrin region, in northwestern Syria, since January 20, against the Popular Protection Units (YPG), which it considers “terrorists”. However, this Kurdish militia is an ally of the international coalition against the Islamic State (IS) group.
On Saturday, fighting between the Ankara forces and the YPG in the north-west of the Afrin region resumed. “The air attacks continue, but with less intensity due to bad weather,” said the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (OSDH).
The operation, dubbed “Olive Branch,” reinforced tensions between Ankara and Washington, whose relations have been poisoned for a year by their disagreement over the YPG.
– “Destroying terrorism” –
During a telephone conversation on Friday night, US National Security Adviser HR McMaster “confirmed” to the spokesman of Turkish President Ibrahim Kalin that Washington would not provide any more weapons to the YPG, the Turkish presidency said on Saturday.
In another telephone conversation, on Wednesday between Erdogan and Donald Trump, the growing chasm between Turkey and the United States became evident, when both administrations gave considerably divergent versions of the conversation.
Disregarding US calls for “containment,” Erdogan threatened on Friday to extend the Turkish offensive to other areas north of Syria controlled by the YPG, such as the city of Manbij, where hundreds of US soldiers are deployed.
And on Saturday the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlüt Cavusoglu, said that “it is necessary that [the United States] withdraw immediately from Manbij.”
“No matter the name of the terrorist organization, whether it is Daesh [Arabic acronym for ISIS], PKK or YPG, with God’s help, we will crush them like a steamroller,” Erdogan promised this Saturday in a speech in Istanbul.
“We will continue our operation [in Afrin] until the head of terrorism is destroyed,” insisted Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. “It does not matter what they say.”
Faced with the Turkish offensive, the semi-autonomous administration of Afrin on Thursday called on the Damascus regime to intervene to prevent attacks.
The Syrian Kurdish groups, which currently control two thirds of the approximately 900 kilometers of the border with Turkey, maintain an ambiguous relationship with the Syrian regime, avoiding clashes. The Syrian opposition accuses the two camps of collusion.
According to the OSDH, the clashes left more than 110 dead since last Saturday on both sides, in addition to 38 civilians, killed in most cases in Turkish bombings.
According to Ankara, which denies any attack on civilians, three Turkish soldiers died and 30 were wounded since the beginning of the offensive.
On the Turkish side, several projectiles launched from Syria fell on border cities, especially Kilis and Reyhanli, leaving at least four dead in eight days.
The Turkish intervention in Afrin, which had been evoked for months, was precipitated by the announcement that the anti-jihadist coalition led by the United States was going to create a “border force” composed mainly of members of the YPG.
Several countries, such as Germany and France, like the European Union, expressed their concern over the Turkish intervention, which further complicates the war in Syria, which has caused more than 340,000 deaths since 2011.
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