Erdogan vows to 'strangle' Syrian border force formed by US
- Author: Megan Austin Jan 16, 2018,
Jan 16, 2018, 0:57
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan criticized plans for a US -led coalition to set up a new border force in Syria, threatening to "strangle it before it's even born". "This will enable the Syrian people to establish effective local, representative governance and reclaim their land".
"What can that terror army target but Turkey?" he asked, warning, "Our mission is to strangle it before it's even born".
But its manpower will be drawn from the Kurdish-dominated Social Democratic Forces, Washington's favoured proxy in the fight against Isis and a major source of contention with Ankara, which views Syria's Kurdish militants as an extension of a Kurdish group in Turkey that has battled the central government for decades. "What we have to do is nip this terror army in the bud", Erdogan said in a televised speech outside Ankara. The SDF now controls almost 25 percent of Syrian territory in the north and east.
The PKK/PYD is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the USA, and EU.
Turkey sent troops into Syria in 2016 to prevent Syrian Kurdish fighters from forming a contiguous entity along its border.
Mr Erdogan added that preparations were complete for a Turkish military operation against the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in north-western Syria, and that it might start "at any moment".
Howitzers staged constant mortar attacks on the US-backed People's Protection Units (YPG) positions in the self-administered Afrin canton.
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"The Border Security Force will be stationed along the borders of SDF-held areas, to include portions of the Euphrates river valley and global borders to the east and north of SDF-liberated territory", the coalition said.
"Don't stand between us and these herd of murderers. Are we going to retreat into our shell and wait for you to hit us?" he said. "Remove your signage from terrorist uniforms so we do not have to bury them on the ground with the terrorists", he said.
A YPG spokesman in Afrin, Rojhat Roj, said new Turkish reinforcements could be seen arriving at the border overnight.
American officials said at the weekend that the new force was needed as the focus shifted from fighting IS extremists to border security in northern Syria.
For his side, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday that the United States is not intending on preserving the Syrian sovereignty.
For much of the war, the United States and Turkey worked together, jointly supporting forces fighting against Assad's government. But they came together a year ago along with Iran, another Assad ally, to set up "de-escalation" zones that have reduced much of the fighting.
Turkish troops entered Idlib three months ago after an agreement with Russian Federation and Iran for the three countries to try to reduce fighting between pro-Syrian government forces and rebel fighters in the largest remaining insurgent-held part of Syria.