Erdogan threatens to expand Syria offensive despite criticism

Source:AFP Published: 2018/1/26 22:58:41

Turkish soldiers are seen with their armored vehicles near Turkish-Syrian border in Hatay, Turkey, on Jan. 23, 2018. (Xinhua)

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday threatened to expand Turkey's offensive in Syria against a Kurdish militia despite calls for restraint from its Western allies.

On the seventh day of the operation against the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia, Erdogan vowed to "clean up" the Syrian city of Manbij.

The US has raised concerns over the deadly offensive, and analysts say a military confrontation between the two NATO powers is possible since the US has a military presence in Manbij.

Turkey launched operation "Olive Branch" against the YPG on January 20, supporting Syrian rebels with ground troops, air strikes and artillery fire. While the YPG is still working closely with Washington against the Islamic State extremist group in Syria, Ankara views the YPG as a terror organization allied to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) inside Turkey.

The PKK is blacklisted by Ankara and its Western allies as a terror outfit.

Erdogan vowed in a speech in Ankara that Turkey would "continue our fight until there is no terrorist on our border," but did not elaborate.

He said the operation would last until "we reach our goals," adding, "Afterwards we will, as promised, clean up Manbij of terrorists."

Tensions between Ankara and Washington are already high but the offensive further strained relations. The two sides disagreed about the content of telephone talks between Erdogan and US President Donald Trump on Wednesday.

Washington said Trump had urged Turkey to "limit its military actions" but a Turkish official said the US statement did "not accurately reflect the content" of the call.

Washington has more than 2,000 special forces and support troops inside Syria.


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