Turkey could launch a new large-scale military operation in northern Syria and may include Manbij and Raqqa held by the U.S.-backed People’s Protection Units (YPG) into its safe zone in order to prevent the emergence of a state there, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said.
Speaking to Russian daily Izvestiya, Erdoğan said that Turkish forces are ready to conduct an operation “at the slightest threat.”
“Some negative processes are going on in Syria right now. If this leads to a threat to our borders, we will react in the same way as we did during the Operation Euphrates Shield,” Erdoğan said.
The president expressed regret that Ankara’s strategic partners cooperate with terrorists from the PKK-affiliated Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed-wing YPG.
He added that Turkey previously expressed its readiness to liberate Manbij and Raqqa from Daesh, but Western allies from the U.S.-led coalition have chosen to work with PYD/YPG terrorists instead.
U.S. support for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which are the main ground force of the Raqqa offensive, has been a major strain on relations between Washington and Ankara as the YPG forms the backbone of SDF forces. The U.S. says supporting the SDF is the only alternative for defeating the Daesh terrorist group, whereas Turkey says an alternative should be formed through local Arab tribes backed by countries in the region instead of supporting a terrorist group.
The latest tension between the two countries was caused by the U.S. distributing arms to the SDF, which the U.S. Secretary of Defense said would be retrieved once Raqqa is taken from Daesh.
Turkey considers the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing the YPG to be the Syrian affiliates of the PKK, a proscribed terrorist organization in the U.S., Turkey and the EU.
The PYD has come under the spotlight for its crimes against Arab and Turkmen locals in northern Syria, as part of its attempt to conduct demographic changes. The PYD’s forced migration of Arabs and Turkmens, as well as arbitrary arrests of critical voices and recruitment of child soldiers, have also been covered by international human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and KurdsWatch.