ANKARA – Turkey will launch a ground operation into northern Syria “at the most convenient time” to build a security strip, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday.
“Our determination to secure all our southern borders – from (provinces of) Hatay to Hakkari – with a security strip is stronger today than ever before. We have already formed part of this strip with cross-border operations,” Erdogan told lawmakers at the parliament.
The Turkish president vowed to get rid of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) elements at the Tell Rifaat, Manbij and Ayn al-Arab regions in northern Syria in order to complete the rest of the safe zone.
The Turkish armed forces is determined to carry out “necessary activities to implement” this strategy of eliminating threats across Turkey’s borders, he added.
“While we continue our aerial operations without interruption, we will ride on top of the terrorists on the ground at the most convenient time for us,” Erdogan said.
The Iraqi and Syrian governments should not be disturbed by the Turkish operations in those places, he emphasized, adding Turkey will ensure the protection of territorial integrity of Iraq and Syria.
Turkey carried out an aerial operation on Nov. 20 against the YPG in northern Syria and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq.
The aerial campaign, dubbed “Operation Claw-Sword,” was launched after a bomb explosion in Turkey’s largest city Istanbul on Nov. 13 that killed at least six people and injured another 81.
After the attack, Turkish police said they had detained a Syrian woman named Ahlam Albashir, who admitted to taking orders from the YPG, which Ankara considered to be the Syrian branch of the PKK.
The Turkish army launched Operation Euphrates Shield in 2016, Operation Olive Branch in 2018, Operation Peace Spring in 2019, and Operation Spring Shield in 2020 in northern Syria.
The PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, has rebelled against the Turkish government for over three decades.