Alwaght- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened on Saturday that his country’s army will launch an incursion into Syria’s northern province of Idlib to destroy Kurdish militia forces that control the neighboring region of Afrin.
“If the terrorists in Afrin don’t surrender we will tear them down,” Erdogan told a congress of his ruling AK Party in the eastern Turkish city of Elazig.
Erdogan has said the Kurdish YPG militia is trying to establish a “terror corridor” on Turkey’s southern border, linking Afrin with a large Kurdish-controlled area to the east.
Turkey associates the Kurdish YPG militants in Syria with the homegrown Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting a decades-long separatist war against Ankara.
“With the Euphrates Shield operation we cut the terror corridor right in the middle. We hit them one night suddenly. With the İdlib operation, we are collapsing the western wing,” Erdogan said, referring to Afrin.
The so-called Euphrates Shield operation spans Syria’s Afrin and Manbij regions. Ankara launched the mission in 2016, saying it sought to fight off the ISIS terror group. Later, however, it was seen using the drive to push against the Kurds.
Turkish leader also said Turkey could drive YPG forces out of Manbij. The mainly Arab town lies west of the Euphrates, and Turkey has long demanded that Kurdish fighters pull back east of the river.
“In Manbij, if they break the promises, we will take the matter in our own hands until there are no terrorists left. They will see what we’ll do in about a week,” Erdogan said.
The Kurdish YPG militia said Turkish forces stationed in Syria shelled several Kurdish villages in the Afrin region on Saturday, without causing casualties.
Rojhat Roj, the YPG spokesman in Afrin, told Reuters the shelling was carried out by Turkish forces in Dar Taizaah and Qalat Seman - areas where he said Turkish forces had deployed as part of the agreement with Russia and Iran.
“From our side, there is no shelling at present,” he added.
Turkey was a major supporter of militant and terrorist groups fighting to overthrow Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, but is alarmed by the strength of Kurdish forces - which Ankara says are linked to Kurdish militants fighting in southeast Turkey.
Ankara has criticized the United States for arming YPG and Arab fighters in the Syrian Democratic Forces,.
“The U.S. sent 4,900 trucks of weapons in Syria. We know this. This is not what allies do,” Erdogan said. “We know they sent 2,000 planes full of weapons.”
The Turkish army’s incursions into Syria come without the Syrian government’s permission, prompting repeated calls by Damascus to stop its military intervention.
Despite angering Syria on the matter, Turkey, along with Russia and Iran, has made great diplomatic strides to help end the crisis in Syria.
The trio has been mediating a peace process in Astana, Kazakhstan, between Syria’s warring sides since January 2016.