Erdogan threatens Syria ground operation ‘as soon as possible’
Erdogan’s comments come as Russia calls for restraint, despite understanding Turkey’s ‘security concerns’.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hinted that Ankara is planning to deploy ground forces to attack Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units, or YPG, forces based across the border in Syria.
Turkey blames what it considers to be the YPG’s parent organisation, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), for the November 13 bombing in central Istanbul, which killed six people.
“We have been bearing down on terrorists for a few days with our planes, cannons and guns,” Erdogan said in a speech on Tuesday. “God willing, we will root out all of them as soon as possible, together with our tanks, our soldiers.”
Erdogan has made similar threats in the past six months, but cross-border air raids on Sunday have heightened the possibility that a bigger military operation may occur.
Russia has warned against any potential operation.
The Kremlin has said Russia respects Turkey’s “legitimate” security concerns over Syria but added that all parties there should avoid steps that could worsen the situation.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday that while there were disagreements between Russia and Turkey in their approach to Syria, Moscow understood Turkey’s security concerns.
“We understand and respect Turkey’s concerns about ensuring its own security. We believe this is Turkey’s legitimate right. At the same time, we call on all parties to refrain from steps that could lead to the destabilisation of the overall situation,” he said.
Ankara blames the PKK and the YPG for the Istanbul attack, which also saw more than 80 people wounded.
The PKK, however, has denied any involvement.
The Turkish defence ministry said its so-called Claw Sword operation – which also included land-fired weapons – killed 184 fighters and destroyed 89 targets including shelters, bunkers, caves and tunnels.
Washington, like Moscow, called for de-escalation.
Russia supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s 11-year war, while Ankara has backed rebels fighting to topple him.
The Kremlin’s call for restraint came as Ankara positions itself as a mediator between Moscow and Kyiv in the Ukraine war, which began when Russia invaded its neighbour on February 24.
Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin have had regular phone calls and meetings throughout the conflict.
Turkey has good relations with Ukraine, too, as the supplier of drones and other weapons.