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Turkey will start offensive in Syria if US troop pullout stalled: Cavusoglu

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (Photo by AFP)

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says his country will launch an offensive against the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria, in case the United States delays the planned withdrawal of its troops from the war-torn Arab country.

"If the (pullout) is put off with ridiculous excuses like Turks are massacring Kurds, which do not reflect the reality, we will implement this decision,” Mevlut Cavusoglu told Turkish-language NTV television news network on Thursday in an exclusive interview.

The top Turkish diplomat then underlined that the Ankara government would go ahead with its incursion plan.

“We are determined on the field and at the table ... We will decide on its timing and we will not receive permission from anyone,” Cavusoglu said.

He also said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's announcement that the Turkish military was preparing for an offensive against Syrian Kurdish forces came well before his US counterpart Donald Trump’s decision to bring home American troops from Syria.

Cavusoglu said Ankara would fight the YPG whether or not US soldiers pulled out of Syria.

Trump said last month that he was bringing home the American troops deployed in Syria -- some 2,000 -- alleging they had succeeded in their mission to defeat the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.

Members of the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) attend the funeral of a slain commander in Syria’s northeastern city of Qamishli on December 6, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

His abrupt move sparked concern among officials in Washington, prompting Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to step down in protest.

On Tuesday, Erdogan censured as “unacceptable” and a “grave mistake” latest comments made by US National Security Adviser John Bolton about YPG militants.

“It is not possible for us to accept and stomach the message Bolton gave from Israel.

“Regarding this matter, Bolton has made a serious mistake and whoever thinks like this has also made a mistake. It is not possible for us to make compromises on this point. Those who are part of the terror corridor in Syria will receive the necessary lesson. There is no single difference between the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), YPG, PYD (Democratic Union Party) and Daesh,” Erdogan told lawmakers from his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) at parliament in the Turkish capital Ankara.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Photo by AFP)

The Turkish leader pointed out that his country had largely completed its preparations for a military offensive against Daesh in neighboring Syria.

“In compliance with the agreement we reached with Mr. President (Donald Trump), we have largely completed our preparations for a military offensive against elements of Daesh, who are still active in Syria. At the same time, we are determined to take steps against terrorist organizations such as [the] PYD and YPG along with Daesh. We will mobilize to neutralize these terrorist organizations in Syrian land very soon,” Erdogan stated.

Last week, Bolton outlined conditions for a US troop departure from Syria. Those “conditions” appeared to contradict Trump’s insistence that the withdrawal would be immediate and without conditions.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and US National Security Advisor John Bolton shake hands during a joint statement to the media following their meeting in Jerusalem al-Quds, on January 6, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

One of those provisions is that the government of Turkey guarantees the safety of YPG forces in Syria.

Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organization and an extension of the outlawed PKK, which has been fighting for an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984.

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