Turkey to launch offensive on Kurds, IS

Source:Agencies Published: 2018/12/25 20:28:40

Erdogan invites Trump to Ankara amid Syria pullout


Turkey is determined to cross to the east of the Euphrates river in northern Syria as soon as possible, the Hurriyet newspaper quoted Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu as saying on Tuesday.

Turkey had said it would launch a new military operation in the area earlier this month. Last week, the US announced a full withdrawal from northern Syria, prompting Turkey to ­delay its plans.

Turkish President Tayyip ­Erdogan and US President Donald Trump agreed Sunday to coordinate to prevent a ­power vacuum from developing, the Turkish presidency said.

Erdogan sent more troops to Syria's border on Monday ahead of an imminent US withdrawal, as the White House ­announced he had invited Trump to Ankara.

Unlike several other allies of the US, Turkey has praised Trump's decision to withdraw 2,000 of his ground forces from Syria, a country where it will now have a freer rein to ­target Kurdish fighters.

On Monday Ankara sent more troops to its Syrian border and said an offensive targeting the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia and Islamic State (IS) group will be launched in the coming months.

Turkey views the YPG as a "terrorist offshoot" of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.

But the militia has also been a key US ally in the fight against IS in Syria, working with ­American forces on the ground there.

"Just as we did not leave our Syrian Arabs to Daesh [IS], we will not leave Syrian Kurds to the cruelty of the PKK," Erdogan said during a speech in Ankara.

A Turkish military convoy arrived overnight on Monday at the border with local media reporting that some vehicles had entered Syria.

In a telephone conversation on Sunday between Trump and Erdogan, which both sides described as "productive," they agreed to avoid a power vacuum in Syria after the US withdrawal.

"President Erdogan invited President Trump to visit Turkey in 2019. While nothing definite is being planned, the President is open to a potential meeting in the future," a White House spokesperson later said on Monday evening.

Erdogan's spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin told reporters on Monday that a US military delegation would arrive this week to "discuss how to coordinate [the withdrawal] with their counterparts."

A Turkish foreign ministry delegation would go to Washington for talks in early January, he added.

Trump stunned the US political establishment and allies last week with his decision, days after Erdogan had warned that Ankara would soon launch an offensive in northern Syria.

Critics of Trump's decision fear that thousands of IS extremist members are still thought to be in Syria, despite Trump's claim of having defeated IS.

The US leader tweeted that Erdogan had told him Ankara would "eradicate" the last IS ­elements.

And Kalin vowed that there was "no question of a step backwards, vulnerability or a slowdown in the fight against Daesh."

He added, "Turkey will show the same determination against Daesh. To beat Daesh, we don't need the PKK or the YPG. We can bring peace to this region."

The Turkish military convoy with howitzers, artillery batteries and several units of the armed forces, was deployed to the border district of Elbeyli in Kilis Province, state news ­agency Anadolu reported Monday.



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