Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar says his country’s military continues to prepare for a military operation against US-backed Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria, which will start “at the right time” for the Ankara government.
“When the time and place comes, the terrorists here will be buried in the ditches they have dug, as was done in previous operations,” Akar said in a speech to military personnel at a brigade command center in Turkey’s southeastern province of Sanliurfa on Friday.
He further noted that plans for the operation have already been completed, but necessary preparations continue.
“Before us, we have Manbij on one side and the east of the Euphrates on the other,” Akar said, underscoring the scale of a potential operation.
“Important preparations and planning have been made in connection with this. Our preparations are continuing intensively,” he added.
Akar pointed out that Turkey's only target in Syria was terrorists since Ankara had no problems with ethnic Kurds.
The remarks came a day after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his country would launch an offensive against YPG forces, 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 in an exclusive interview.
The top Turkish diplomat then underlined that the Ankara government would go ahead with its incursion plan.
Cavusoglu said Ankara would fight the YPG whether or not US soldiers pulled out of Syria.
US President Donald 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.
His abrupt move sparked concern among officials in Washington, prompting Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to step down in protest.
Some commanders in the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which has YPG as its backbone, have described the Washington’s move as “a stab in the back.”
The Syrian town of Manbij, which lies in mainly Arab territory west of the Euphrates, has been a major bone of contention between Ankara and Washington.
Turkey has complained over the slow implementation of a deal reached with the United States in June 2018, which would see the YPG ousted from the town and moved back to the eastern bank of the river.
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.
The Turkish military, with support from allied militants of the so-called Free Syrian Army, has launched two cross-border operations in northern Syria, dubbed “Euphrates Shield” and “Olive Branch”, against the YPG and Daesh Takfiri terrorists.
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