President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Jan. 15 threatened to thwart the creation of a U.S-backed 30,000-strong border security force manned mostly by the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria.
Turkey’s armed forces completed preparations for an operation against the YPG in their strongholds Afrin, in northwestern Syria, and Manbij, in northern Syria, Erdoğan said on Jan. 15 at an opening ceremony in Ankara.
“The operation may start any time. Operations into other regions will come after,” the president said, noting that the Turkish army was already hitting YPG positions.
“America has acknowledged it is in the process of creating a terror army on our border. What we have to do is nip this terror army in the bud,” Erdoğan said.
He warned Turkey’s allies against helping what he called terrorists in Syria, saying, “We won’t be responsible for the consequences.”
He said the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)-affiliated Kurdish militia would eventually start blackmailing Washington.
The U.S. is trying to create an “army of terror” on Turkey’s southern frontier by training a Syrian border force including the Kurdish militia, he stated.
Turkey objects to the formation of the new force comprised mostly of the YPG, which Ankara accuses of being a terrorist organization for its links with the PKK.
Recalling his previous meetings with U.S. officials, Erdoğan said Turkey had asked Washington to accept sending Turkish troops into Manbij and Raqqa to fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), but the U.S. insisted on cooperating with the Kurdish militia.
Turkish Foreign Ministry condemns US’ YPG army plan
The Turkish Foreign Ministry slammed media reports that the U.S.-led international coalition fighting against ISIL would establish a 30,000-strong new border security force with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – the U.S.-backed group that is largely controlled and manned by the YPG in Syria.
The ministry issued a statement on Jan. 14, saying Turkey had reiterated on numerous occasions that it was “wrong and objectionable” to cooperate with the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) “terrorist organization” on the ground in Syria in order to fight ISIL and stabilize the areas liberated from it.
“On the other hand, the establishment of the so-called ‘Syria Border Protection Force’ was not consulted with Turkey, which is a member of the coalition,” the statement said.
It was also unknown which coalition members approved this decision, the ministry said. “To attribute such a unilateral step to the whole coalition is an extremely wrong move that could harm the fight against Daesh,” it added, using an Arabic acronym for ISIL.
The coalition had issued a written statement to some media outlets earlier on Jan. 14, wherein it said the coalition was working with the SDF to set up and train the Syria Border Protection Force.
Turkey has long protested U.S. support for the YPG, as Ankara sees it as an offshoot of the PKK, while Washington sees it as a “reliable ally” in its fight against ISIL in Syria.
Turkey has ‘right’ to fight terrorism ‘in any way’: Presidential spokesman
Turkey has the right to fight all terrorist groups in any manner it deems fit and will continue to take necessary measures to ensure its security is in line with national interests, Presidential Spokesman İbrahim Kalın said on Jan. 14.
“Within this framework, Turkey reserves its right to respond to the legitimate target of terrorist organizations in any way, time and place,” Kalın said in a written statement.