Flashpoints

Turkish president vows Syria operation if US falls short in safe zone

ISTANBUL — Turkey’s president threatened Saturday to launch a unilateral offensive into northeastern Syria if plans to establish a so-called safe zone along Turkey’s border fail to meet his expectations, including a demand that Turkish soldiers control the corridor.

Speaking to graduates of a military academy in Istanbul, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the U.S. had up to three weeks to satisfy Turkish demands.

Earlier in August, Turkish and U.S. officials agreed to set up the zone east of the Euphrates River. Ankara wants U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters, considered terrorists by Turkey, to pull back from the border.

"If our soldiers do not start to control the area actively, we will have no choice but to activate our own operational plans," Erdogan said.

Turkey has been pressing to control — in coordination with the U.S. — a 19-25 mile (30-40 kilometer) deep zone within civil war-ravaged Syria, running east of the Euphrates all the way to the border with Iraq.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, arrives to deliver a speech to graduates of a military academy in Istanbul, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019. (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, arrives to deliver a speech to graduates of a military academy in Istanbul, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019. (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)

On Friday, Erdogan said Turkish officials had “temporarily” agreed to a safe zone proposed by the U.S. that is narrower than 20 miles (32 kilometers).

The two countries set up a joint operations center in Turkey's border province of Sanliurfa this month and started helicopter patrols. But Turkish officials have repeatedly vowed to go it alone if the U.S. delays safe zone plans.

U.S. officials have made clear that a Turkish invasion of Syria is an extremely risky venture that could threaten the safety of U.S. forces working with the SDF and potentially impede the continued defeat of Islamic State militants in the region.. (Giuseppe Cacace/AFP via Getty Images)
Esper: US intends to prevent Turkey invasion into Syria

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Tuesday that the U.S. intends to prevent any unilateral invasion by Turkey into northern Syria, saying any such move by the Turks would be unacceptable.

Turkey sees the Syrian Kurdish fighters, who make up the majority of the Syrian Democratic Forces, as an extension of a Kurdish insurgency within Turkey. American troops are stationed in northeast Syria, along with the Kurdish forces, and have fought the Islamic State group together. The differing positions on the Kurdish fighters have become a major source of tension between NATO allies Turkey and the U.S.

Erdogan said his visit to New York in September for the U.N. General Assembly, where he’s expected to meet President Donald Trump, would be a “last chance” before a Turkish offensive.

Recommended for you
Around The Web
Comments