Turkey will go ahead with an offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters in Syria if the United States delays the withdrawal of its troops from the war-torn country, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said.
“If the [withdrawal] is put off with ridiculous excuses like Turks are massacring Kurds, which do not reflect the reality, we will implement this decision,” he told NTV channel on Thursday.
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Cavusoglu said a military operation against the US-allied Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which it has pledged to carry out in northeastern Syria, is not dependent on the pullout of US troops.
“We are determined on the field and at the table … We will decide on its timing and we will not receive permission from anyone.”
Turkey has long condemned the US for its military relationship with the Kurdish fighters.
Ankara considers the YPG and its political wing – the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) – to be “terrorist groups” with ties to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Turkey.
Last month, US President Donald Trump said he is withdrawing some 2,000 US troops from Syria in a statement that shocked many politicians in Washington as well as Western and Kurdish allies fighting alongside the US in the war-torn country.
Trump’s decision to withdraw troops was initially expected to be carried out swiftly, but the timetable became vague in the weeks following his announcement.
France, Britain and local armed groups have also warned that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) had not been totally defeated yet.
On Sunday, US National Security Adviser John Bolton had set pre-conditions for the US pullout from Syria that included Turkey guaranteeing the safety of the YPG.
Ankara has rejected US demands for assurances that it will not attack its Kurdish allies in Syria before the US troops withdraw from the war-torn region.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced the call for the protection of Kurdish fighters as “seriously mistaken”.
On Wednesday, Cavusoglu said the US is facing difficulties in parting ways with the Kurdish fighters it allied with to fight the ISIL.
“It is hard to break up with a terrorist organisation after being involved with it at this level,” Cavusoglu said.