- Turkey has led three incursions into Syria in recent years
- Official says YPG militia must be pushed back at least 30 km
- Erdogan says he will eliminate threats, latest attack is “the straw”
ANKARA, Oct. 15 (Reuters) – Turkey is bracing for possible new military action against a US-backed Kurdish militia in northern Syria if talks on the issue with the US and Russia fail, two Turkish officials said.
President Tayyip Erdogan said this week that Ankara was determined to eliminate threats from northern Syria and that an attack by Kurdish YPG militias that killed two Turkish policemen was “the last straw.” Read more
Turkey said police in Syria’s Azaz region were hit on Sunday by a YPG-guided missile attack from Tel Rifaat, which Ankara sees as a terrorist group closely linked to militants fighting a decades-old insurgency in southeastern Turkey.
“It is essential that the areas, especially the Tel Rifaat region from which attacks are constantly carried out against us, are cleaned up,” a senior official told Reuters.
Turkish forces have launched three incursions in the past five years, seizing hundreds of kilometers of border strip and pushing about 30 km (20 miles) into northern Syria.
Russian jets, Iranian-backed fighters, Turkish-backed insurgents, jihadists, US troops, and Syrian government forces are also operating across the patchwork of territories in northern Syria, as well as the Kurdish YPG.
The United States sees the YPG as a key ally in the fight against Islamic State in northeastern Syria. Russia has forces in the region to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The timing and nature of any further Turkish military action was unclear. The official said the military and the national intelligence agency MIT were making preparations.
“The decision on the matter has been taken and the necessary coordination will be done with particular countries. This subject will be discussed with Russia and the United States,” he added.
Officials said Erdogan would discuss the issue with US President Joe Biden at a G20 summit of the world’s major economies in Rome in late October.
Another official said the YPG had to be pushed back at least 30 km, noting that Russia had full control of the areas from which the recent attacks came, as well as some Iranian elements.
Erdogan will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin after the talks with Biden, he said.
“If there is no diplomatic result and the PYD does not leave these areas, an operation seems inevitable,” he said, using the abbreviation for the political wing of the YPG and referring to Tel Rifaat and “several other localities”.
On Monday, shells believed to have been fired from a YPG-controlled area east of Tel Rifaat exploded in the Turkish town of Karkamis, across the Syrian border of Jarablus, causing slight damage, said Turkey.
Azaz and Jarablus have been under the control of Turkish-backed rebels since Ankara’s first incursion into Syria in 2016 – an operation that aimed to drive Islamic State militants and YPGs away from the border.
Since then, Ankara has launched two more operations in Syria against the YPG, one targeting the northwestern region of Afrin and the other further east.
Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Dominic Evans
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