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WorldTurkey Threatens Operation Against American-Backed Syrian Kurds

16:10  22 july  2019
16:10  22 july  2019 Source:   bloomberg.com

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The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has said that Turkey will launch a military operation against the Kurds in northern Syria within days, in a decision that could signal a shift in Turkish -US relations and have far-reaching consequences for Syria ’s future. Long frustrated by US support for

ISTANBUL — Turkish artillery fired shells into the northern Syrian region of Afrin on Friday as Turkey ’s defense minister announced a military operation against American - backed Kurdish militias, despite warnings from the United States.

Turkey Threatens Operation Against American-Backed Syrian Kurds© AAREF WATAD/AFP/Getty Images Armoured vehicles belonging to the US-led coalition drive down Bab al-Hawa highway in the southern countryside of Syria's Aleppo province towards Kafr Lusin near the border with Turkey, on June 20, 2019.

(Bloomberg) -- Turkey threatened to launch an operation against American-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters if it can’t reach an agreement with the U.S. to push them away from the Turkish border.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu delivered the warning Monday as the Trump administration’s top Syria envoy, James Jeffrey, prepared to attend a critical round of talks in the Turkish capital, Ankara.

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Operation Olive Branch ( Turkish : Zeytin Dalı Harekâtı) is an ongoing cross-border military operation conducted by the Turkish Armed Forces and allied Syrian Arab and Turkmen militias in the

Turkey threatens further strikes on US-allied Syrian Kurds . Turkey 's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his country may take further action against Kurdish

“If the safe zone is not created, the threat emanating from this area continues and terrorists are not cleared, then we would start the operation,” Cavusoglu said in an interview with Turkey’s TGRT television. “If the threat continues then our soldiers are ready, we would launch the operation, this is a matter of national security for us.”

Jeffrey’s two-day visit is likely to be dominated by Ankara’s insistence on setting up a buffer zone in Syria that would be off-limits to the Kurdish forces. Turkey says the fighters have designs on its territory, and in recent weeks, it’s mobilized thousands of troops near its frontier with northeastern Syria to try to pressure Washington to help it enforce such a zone.

But whether Cavusoglu’s declared readiness to attack turns into action is another matter. Officials in Ankara are trying to tread carefully to avoid putting President Donald Trump in a difficult position. Trump has so far refrained from imposing sanctions over Turkey’s decision to deploy a Russian-made S-400 air defense system, and Ankara has tried to keep the safe-zone issue walled off from frictions over the Russian missiles.

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Turkish - backed Free Syrian Army fighters stand together near Mount Barsaya, northeast of Afrin, Syria On January 20, the Turkish Air Force launched strikes against Kurdish targets in Afrin while Prime Thousands of Kurds took to the streets of the city of Afrin to protest against what they called

Turkish forces continued their attack on the Kurds , America ’s closest ally in the war on the Islamic State, with the apparent blessing of Moscow. The United States has not chastised Turkey for attacking its allies, the Syrian Kurds .CreditCreditSedat Suna/European Pressphoto Agency.

“Turkey regards the safe zone issue as a channel to maintain ties with the U.S. in the wake of the S-400 crisis,” said Nihat Ali Ozcan, a strategist at the Ankara-based Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey. “And the U.S. is seeking a solution both to address Turkey’s security concerns and protect its Kurdish allies, who control most of Syria’s oil and agriculture fields, and curtail Iranian and Russian influence in Syria.”

The U.S. sees the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia as a vital component of its campaign to defeat Islamic State. For Ankara, the militant group is a mortal enemy because of its links to another Kurdish separatist movement that Turkey has been fighting against for over three decades. That group, the PKK, is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. and European Union.

Turkey suspects the U.S. backs the YPG’s aspiration for self-rule east of the Euphrates River in Syria and is using the group as a proxy force to defend U.S. interests in the region, according to two Turkish officials who are directly familiar with troop movements and the administration’s thinking. They asked not to be identified in line with regulations that bar them from talking to the media.

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The Syrian Kurds had spearheaded a US- backed campaign to oust Isis from its self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa, a battle that finished in the autumn. The US had vowed to ask its allies to surrender weapons once the fight against Isis had been completed. A senior Turkish official told the Guardian

Not just Turkey . Syrian Kurdish forces accuse Turkey of having already made sporadic attacks against them along the border. If YPG forces continue to make military gains, while Turkish forces step up their battle against the PKK across Turkey ’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, observers warn

The Turkish army has mobilized from the east bank of the Euphrates all the way to the Iraqi border, with reinforcements concentrated in the border towns of Akcakale and Ceylanpinar, just across from the Syrian towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain, the officials said. Turkey seeks sole jurisdiction in the frontier region and wants the U.S. to collect heavy weapons it supplied to the Kurdish forces, they said.

Jeffrey said last month that there is a general agreement in principle on the safe zone but signaled U.S. reluctance to collect the weapons -- a move that would leave their Kurdish allies vulnerable to a potential Turkish attack. “We certainly have a commitment by the people we’ve armed and trained that they will not use these weapons against anybody other than ISIS,” he said.

While Trump’s efforts to block S-400 sanctions is a strong incentive to avoid unilateral action, his track record on Syria remains a source of suspicion for Turkish officials, according to Mesut Hakki Casin, an analyst at Istanbul’s Istinye University and a member of the security and foreign policy board that advises Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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While Turkey has been threatening with an operation against the Syrian Kurdish fighters, which are the backbone of the US- backed Syrian Democratic Forces fighting Daesh, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged Turkey not to engage in any invasion of the Syrian city Afrin.

" Americans will never abandon Syrian Kurds , nor will Russia, which is supportive of the Syrian Kurds within a certain status, no doubt," claimed analyst Analysts suggest Ankara's latest threat against the Syrian Kurdish militia in Afrin could be a move to remind the United States and Russia it remains

“Turkey is worried that the U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights carries the risk of a similar move for the east of the Euphrates,” Casin said in his capacity as a faculty member.

Turkey’s army seized border areas west of the Euphrates river last year and Erdogan has repeatedly warned that Ankara will not let the YPG build a land connection between the areas under their control along the 911-kilometer (566-mile) border with Turkey.

To contact the reporters on this story: Selcan Hacaoglu in Ankara at [email protected];Firat Kozok in Ankara at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Onur Ant at [email protected], Amy Teibel, Michael Gunn

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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