President Erdogan: Turkey to launch offensive in northern Syria

It would mark the third Turkish incursion into Syria in as many years

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan inspects a military honour guard before addressing his supporters in Bursa, Turkey, Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019. Erdogan has renewed a pledge for a cross-border military operation into northeastern Syria and said: "We've entered Afrin, Jarablus, al-Bab. Now we will enter the east of the Euphrates." (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)
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Turkey will carry out a military operation in a Kurdish-controlled area east of the Euphrates in northern Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday.

The incursion would be Turkey's third offensive to dislodge Kurdish militia fighters close to its border.

Turkey had announced such military operations in the past, but put them on hold after agreeing with the US to create a safe zone inside Syria’s north-eastern border that would be cleared of the Kurdish YPG militia.

But Ankara has accused Washington of stalling progress on the safe zone and has demanded the US sever its relations with the YPG.

The group was Washington’s main ally in Syria during the battle against ISIS but Turkey considers it a terrorist organisation.

Mr Erdogan said Russia and the US had been told of the operation but he did not say when it would begin. It would mark the third Turkish incursion into Syria in as many years.

“We entered Afrin, Jarablus and Al Bab. Now we will enter the east of the Euphrates,” Mr Erdogan said on Sunday.

A US official told Reuters: “Bilateral discussions with Turkey continue on the possibility of a safe zone with US and Turkish forces that addresses Turkey’s legitimate security concerns in northern Syria.”

Overnight, three Turkish-backed Syrian rebel fighters were killed during clashes with the YPG, the state-owned Anadolu Agency reported on Sunday.

It said the YPG tried to infiltrate the front lines in Syria’s Al Bab area, where Turkey carved out a buffer zone in its 2016 “Euphrates Shield” offensive.

Clashes such as these are frequent in the area but casualties are rare.

On Thursday, the Kurdish-led administration running northern and eastern Syria objected to the Turkish threats.

“These threats pose a danger on the area and on a peaceful solution in Syria, and any Turkish aggression on the area will open the way for the return of Daesh," it said.

"That aggression will also contribute to the widening of the circle of Turkish occupation in Syria."

The administration called on the international community to stop Turkey carrying out its threats.