Erdogan says Turkey to resume Syria offensive if truce deal falters

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence meets with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, October 17, 2019. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday Turkey would press on with its offensive into northeastern Syria and “crush the heads of terrorists” if a deal with Washington on the withdrawal of Kurdish fighters from the area were not fully implemented.

Erdogan agreed on Thursday in talks with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence a five-day pause in the offensive to allow time for the Kurdish fighters to withdraw from a “safe zone” Turkey aims to establish in northeast Syria near the Turkish border.

On Saturday the fragile truce was holding along the border, with a few Turkish military vehicles crossing the border, Reuters journalists at the scene said. In the last 36 hours, there have been 14 “provocative attacks” from Syria, Turkey’s defense ministry said, adding it was continuing to coordinate closely with Washington on implementation of the accord.

If the agreement with the United States, a NATO ally, falters, Turkey will continue its military operation from where it left off, Erdogan said.

“If it works, it works. If not, we will continue to crush the heads of the terrorists the minute the 120 hours (of the ceasefire) are over,” Erdogan told flag-waving supporters in the central Turkish province of Kayseri.

“If the promises that were made to us are not kept, we will not wait like we did before and we will continue the operation where it left off once the time we set has run out,” he said.

The surprise deal to suspend Turkey’s military offensive in Syria hinged on Erdogan’s demand that Washington agree on a time limit on any ceasefire, a senior Turkish official told Reuters on Friday.

The deal aims to stem a humanitarian crisis, which displaced 200,000 civilians in the region, and ease a security scare over thousands of Islamic State captives guarded by the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia targeted by the Turkish assault.

Ankara regards the YPG, the main component of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), as a terrorist group because of its links to Kurdish insurgents in southeast Turkey.

The planned safe zone would extend more than 30 km (20 miles) deep into Syria. Erdogan said on Friday it would run for some 440 km from west to east along the border, though the U.S. special envoy for Syria said the accord covered a smaller area where Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel allies were fighting.

Erdogan also said on Friday Turkey would set up a dozen observation posts across northeast Syria, and that he would hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on what steps to take in the planned “safe zone” next week.

EMERGENCY TALKS IN SOCHI

The truce also aimed to ease a crisis triggered by President Donald Trump’s abrupt decision earlier this month to withdraw all 1,000 U.S. troops from northern Syria, a move criticized in Washington and elsewhere as a betrayal of loyal Kurdish allies who had fought for years alongside U.S. troops against Islamic State.

Trump defended his decision as “strategically brilliant” and said the truce reached with Turkey would save millions of lives. Trump later said he held a phone call with Erdogan and that the Turkish leader “very much wants the ceasefire, or pause, to work”.

But Trump’s move also means the extent of Turkey’s ambitions in the region is likely to be determined by Russia and Iran, who both support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and look to fill the vacuum created by the U.S. retreat.

Assad has already deployed his forces in the territory formerly protected by Washington, invited by the Kurds. Erdogan, who has backed rebels fighting to oust Assad, has said Turkey has no problem with Syrian government forces deploying near the border.

But Erdogan said on Saturday he would discuss the Syrian deployment in northern Syria in his planned talks with Putin during a visit to Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi on Tuesday.

“In certain parts of our operation area, (Assad) regime forces under Russian protection are situated. We will discuss this issue with Mr Putin. We need to find a solution,” Erdogan said.

“But the same is valid there too. If it works, it works. If not, then we will continue to implement our own plans,” he said, without elaborating.

While Erdogan and Putin have forged close ties over defense and energy cooperation, as well as efforts to find a political solution in Syria, Moscow has said the Turkish offensive into Syria was “unacceptable” and should be limited.

On Friday, Russian officials discussed with Assad in Damascus the need to de-escalate the situation in northeast Syria, Russia’s foreign ministry said on Saturday.

What do you think?

Comments

newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Kay
Member

It is up to the countries it that region to settle this. We were supposed to be there 3 weeks and it has been years. Trump is right about getting out and the hawks do not like his decision. These people will hate each other long after all of us are dead and gone.

ron
Member

Ok NATO and United nations time for you guys to step in and take care of this problem.

Screwtape
Member

I’m wondering how this is going to work out, since Syria, a sovereign state, is allied with Iran and Russia. Turkey may want a buffer zone and to eliminate the PKK, but it may have bitten off more than it can chew, especially if it persists in its aggression. Syria’s “buddies” come to play.

While the withdrawal of US troops was done poorly, there’s little reason for us to get embroiled in this mess. Let’s hope that Turkey’s acts don’t drag NATO into it. It’s frankly not worth it.

Loading…

0

Comments

0 comments

Hillary Clinton

Clinton Claims a Democratic Candidate Is a Russian Asset

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau leave Rideau Hall after asking Governor General Julie Payette to dissolve Parliament, and mark the start of a federal election campaign in Canada, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, September 11, 2019. REUTERS/Patrick Doyle

Dirty tactics and awkward moments dominate Canada’s meandering campaign