Erdogan threatens to expand Syria offensive despite criticism

27 January, 2018, 20:23 | Author: Kim Reid
  • Reuters

The brutal Syrian war, which has claimed more than 340,000 lives since 2011, has grown even more complex over the past week with Turkey launching a ground operation against Kurdish fighters in northern Afrin, close to the Turkish border.

President Tayyip Erdogan on Friday said Turkish forces would sweep Kurdish militants from the Syrian border and could push all the way east to the frontier with Iraq, including Manbij - a move which risks a possible confrontation with US forces allied to the Kurds.

More than a fifth of Turkey's citizens are ethnic Kurds, who speak a dialect of Persian rather than Turkish, and belong to one of the most ancient peoples in the region concentrated in the border zone including parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran.

"The U.S. needs to stop providing weapons to terrorist groups in Syria as it has promised before", he added.

Afrin has welcomed many Internaly Displaced Persons from other regions of the country which has led to a doubing of its population to 400,000 and 500,000, because it was relatively spared from the war and agressions of the Assads regime forces. Whenever Turkey tried to convince its ally, it received a reply along the lines of: "We understand your security concerns, but the priority is Daesh, not the others". Manbij is held by the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is dominated by the People's Protection Units.

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"The attack from Afrin on Calik Mosque serves to show how important Operation Olive Branch is".

According to the Turkish General Staff, Operation Olive Branch aims to establish security and stability along Turkish borders and the region as well as to protect the Syrian people from the oppression and cruelty of terrorists.

It would need to determine whether it would support its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey, the Kurdish fighters it has backed to defeat IS, or somehow forge some sort of compromise between the two sides.

The agreement was reached in Vienna between the Syrian opposition and Russian Federation.

Ankara says the YPG is a "terrorist" offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is proscribed as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies. It said 134 civilians were wounded in the weeklong clashes.

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Donald Trab, in a telephone conversation he had with Erdogan on Wednesday, had asked Ankara to avoid moves that could result in Turkish forces clashing with the USA forces in the area.

Erdogan said "343 terrorists have been neutralised" during the operation so far. I would describe the minutes of President Trump's telephone conversation with President Erdogan as very strict.

The Turkish operation appears limited exclusively against Kurdish militias that control the city and its countryside.

A child waits Friday on the outskirts of Kilis, Turkey, after he and his family crossed the border from eastern Syria, where Turkish troops are battli.

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