Recep Tayyip Erdogan has suggested that Turkey could soon launch a new incursion across the border into northern Syria.
Erdogan’s address to a military ceremony honoring Turkish commando soldiers on Friday renewed his threat to expand Turkey’s military operations into areas east of the Euphrates River held by US-backed Kurdish militants.
“God willing, very soon…we will leave the terror nests east of the Euphrates in disarray,” Erdogan said.
Turkey invaded Syria in 2016 and 2018, occupying areas west of the Euphrates. The country associates Kurdish militants with anti-Ankara separatists, who have been fighting a deadly decades-long war against the country.
It has locked horns on several occasions with the US, which has been generously arming and training the militants under the pretext of fighting Daesh terrorists who have been driven out of much of the territories under their control in Syria.
Most recently, Turkey deployed forces to Idlib Province in the Euphrates River’s western side as part of a joint operation with Russia to create a buffer zone.
Syria regards the presence of Turkish troops as illegal and wants them to leave its territories.
Ankara’s agreement with Russia forestalled an imminent offensive to liberate Idlib where several Turkish-backed militant groups are based.
Syrian President Bashar Assad said earlier this month that the Russian-Turkish deal to avert a military offensive in Idlib is a “temporary one” that prevented bloodshed but that his government’s goal is to restore control over all of Syria.
Turkey and Russia have voiced alarm at US massing of heavy weapons in support of Kurdish militants on the eastern site of the Euphrates.
Erdogan said recently that “the biggest threat to Syria’s future lies in the nests of terror to the east of the Euphrates,” citing the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Democratic Union Party (PYD) which are supported by the US.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said last month that “the main danger to Syria’s territorial integrity originates from the eastern bank of the Euphrates, where independent and autonomous structures are created under the direct control of the United States.”