Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan says military forces will intervene in northern Syria, after warning the United States it had done too little to expel its Kurdish allies from the border area.
Turkey could take matters into its own hands “as soon as today or tomorrow,” Erdogan added. The air and ground military operation will take place east of the Euphrates River in northeastern Syria.
While addressing the ruling Justice and Development Party’s 29th Consultation and Assessment meeting in Kizilcahaman, Erdogan said the goal of the military operation is to establish peace: “Our aim is, I underline it, to shower east of Euphrates with peace. Turkey has to carry out and succeed in this operation [east of Euphrates] for both its national security and [to ensure] the return of Syrians in Turkey to their own country”.
The announcement prompted the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to promise “all-out war” if they face an unprovoked attack.
The SDF is led by the Kurdish YPG militia, or People’s Protection Units. The YPG is the Syrian arm of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or PKK, in Turkey, which considers both groups to be terrorists.
“We will not hesitate to turn any unprovoked attack by Turkey into an all-out war on the entire border to defend ourselves and our people,” SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said.
Erdogan’s announcement came just two days after U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and his Turkish counterpart, Hulusi Akar, discussed tensions in the region.
“Secretary Esper and Minister Akar acknowledged the progress made on the implementation of a security mechanism in northeast Syria and affirmed the mechanism as the way to secure the border in a sustainable manner, ensure the Global Coalition can prevent an ISIS resurgence, and remain fully committed to the close coordination of military operations,” Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement.