Erdogan says Turkey is ready to start military operation in Syria

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday Turkey’s preparations for a new military operation in the country were over, ahead of a meeting with US President Donald Trump.

“Our preparations along the border are over,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul before leaving for New York, where the UN General Assembly is being held.

An agreement was reached last month between the United States and Turkey to create a safe area in northeastern Syria. This safe area is supposed to separate the Turkish border from territory controlled by the armed Kurdish YPG, which Ankara considers a “terrorist group.” The YPG led the Syrian-backed Democratic Forces in Washington, fighting the Islamic State in Syria.

Erdogan had previously warned Washington that Turkey was giving it until late September to achieve tangible results on the safe area or it would start a military operation against the YPG.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu accused the United States of making “only formal” efforts on the safe area.

The issue will be discussed between the Turkish and US presidents in New York.

In early September, the Americans and the Turks conducted their first joint patrol in northeastern Syria in the area that is supposed to be turned into a safe area.

Turkish and US helicopters have also conducted air patrols, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported.

The safe area aims to keep the YPG from the Turkish border.

Erdogan also announced that some 3 million Syrian refugees could return to the safe zone of Europe and Turkey, where there are more than 3.7 million Syrian refugees.

US support for the YPG has strained relations between the United States and Turkey.

On Wednesday, a Pentagon official said the United States would continue to provide Kurdish forces with weapons and mechanisms to fight Islamic State in northeastern Syria even after establishing a safe zone on the border with Turkey.

Ankara asserts that the YPG is a “terrorist” branch of the PKK, which began in 1984 with an armed rebellion against Turkish internationalism.

“We do not want to engage in confrontation with the United States,” Erdogan said. “But we cannot afford the luxury of ignoring US support for these terrorist organizations.”

Turkey launched a military operation against ISIS in Syria in 2016 and then against the YPG in 2018.

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