Ankara hints at new Syria operation after spate of assaults near border

ISTANBUL — Two years since its final Syria incursion, Ankara is hinting at a brand new cross-border army operation in response to a spate of assaults near its southern border, certainly one of which killed two Turkish law enforcement officials Sunday.

In a press convention Wednesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu mentioned the nation would “do what is necessary for its security,” saying Turkey would search to clear border areas of US-backed Syrian Kurdish militants with the People’s Defense Units (YPG), which Ankara considers a nationwide safety risk and an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Commenting on current assaults, Cavusoglu added the United States and Russia didn’t fulfill separate agreements established in 2019 that might oversee the YPG militia’s withdrawal from areas near the Turkey-Syria border.

“Both Russia and the US are also responsible for YPG/PKK attacks on Turkey, as they have not fulfilled their promises,” Cavusoglu mentioned Wednesday.

The statements echoed a related pledge by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Monday, who mentioned the weekend assault was “the final straw” and Turkey was “determined to eliminate threats arising from Syria.”

Turkey’s Interior Ministry mentioned Sunday a guided missile fired by the YPG hit an armored automobile within the northern Syrian district of Azaz, killing two Turkish law enforcement officials and wounding two different passengers. Britain’s Syrian Observatory for Human Rights initially reported the missile was launched by YPG-linked forces.

In separate incidents Monday, the Interior Ministry mentioned mortar shells fired from a YPG-controlled space landed in Turkey’s southeastern Gaziantep province, with one hitting the Syrian district of Jarablus.

After three separate cross-border army operations, Turkey controls massive areas of northern Syria with allied Syrian insurgent teams, together with Idlib the place greater than 3.four million Syrian civilians have taken refuge from Syrian regime forces in a 10-year-old civil warfare that has compartmentalized the nation.

In its most up-to-date Syria incursion, 2019’s Operation Peace Spring, Ankara sought to create a 30-kilometer-deep (20 miles) “safe zone” east of the Euphrates River reverse Turkey’s southern border.

Following this week’s assaults near the Syrian border, Oytun Orhan, Levant research coordinator on the Center for Middle Eastern Studies in Ankara, mentioned a brand new Turkish offensive may search to increase the Peace Spring space, and Erdogan’s statements Monday ought to be taken as “serious.”

“I think we are experiencing a similar process to what we have seen before Turkey’s previous cross-border operations in Syria,” Orhan advised Al-Monitor.

Noting offensives in Syria’s Kobani area may spur worldwide backlash, Orhan mentioned the almost certainly areas for Turkish army operations embrace Tel Rif’at in addition to areas between Amuda and Darbasiyah alongside the Turkish border, with goals to increase the Peace Spring “safe zone” to the identical 30-kilometer depth alongside Syria’s M4 freeway.

“Turkey’s ultimate goal east of the Euphrates is to control the whole Syrian border,” Orhan added.

An estimated 900 US troops stay in jap Syria, the place their presence has largely restrained Turkish army operations, mentioned Berkay Mandiraci, a Turkey analyst for the International Crisis Group. Ankara has additionally remained pissed off by a scarcity of progress on US and Russian guarantees to take away YPG-linked forces from border areas.

In an Oct. 7 letter, US President Joe Biden prolonged a Trump administration nationwide emergency government order on Syria, writing Turkey’s operations within the nation’s northeast undermine campaigns to defeat remaining Islamic State militants within the area and proceed “to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”

Mandiraci mentioned energy circles in Ankara seem to have learn the letter as a sign that US coverage on Syria is not going to change anytime quickly.

“The move may also have emboldened PKK and YPG cadres on the ground who feel increasingly squeezed by the Turkish military, especially in northern Iraq,” Mandiraci advised Al-Monitor. “We may see more tensions in Syria and Iraq between Turkey, the PKK and its affiliates in the months ahead.”

The developments come as Ankara seeks to buy 40 US-made F-16 fighter jets and about 80 modernization kits for its current fleet amid ongoing strain from Washington to ditch Russian-made S-400 missile protection methods it acquired in 2019, which has culminated in an casual ban on some US weapon gross sales to Turkey.

With US-Turkey relations tense, the F-16 deal together with prospects for a brand new Syria incursion will possible stay excessive on the agenda for a deliberate assembly between presidents Erdogan and Biden on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Rome later this month.

Following Sunday’s lethal assault, US State Department Ned Price expressed condolences for the households of the Turkish law enforcement officials killed within the missile assault throughout a press briefing Tuesday, underlining Turkey stays “an important NATO ally.”

“We underscore the importance of maintaining cease-fire lines and halting cross-border attacks,” Price added in his statements.

Speaking Wednesday, Turkey’s Cavusoglu mentioned Price’s statements had been insincere, highlighting Washington’s function in supplying arms to Syrian Kurdish militants.

“You are providing them with arms and then making a statement for show only. The insincerity is obvious there,” Cavusoglu mentioned, referring to the United States.

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