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Erdogan Says Turkey Will Tackle Kurds in Syria

Turkey, the second largest army in NATO, reinforced the section of its border with Syria at the weekend with artillery and tanks and Erdogan says Turkey is ready to take action
Erdogan Says Turkey Will Tackle Kurds in SyriaErdogan Says Turkey Will Tackle Kurds in Syria

Days after a reshuffle of Turkey’s top military commanders, President Tayyip Erdogan has revived warnings of military action against Kurdish fighters in Syria that could set back the US-led battle against self-styled Islamic State terror group.

Kurdish militia are spearheading an assault against the hard-line militants in their Syrian stronghold Raqqa, from where Islamic State has planned attacks around the world for the past three years, Reuters reported.

But US backing for the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters, in Syria has infuriated Turkey, which views their growing battlefield strength as a security threat due to a decades-old insurgency by the Kurdish PKK within in its borders.

There have been regular exchanges of rocket and artillery fire in recent weeks between Turkish forces and YPG fighters who control part of Syria’s northwestern border.

Turkey, which has the second largest army in NATO after the United States, reinforced that section of the border at the weekend with artillery and tanks and Erdogan said Turkey was ready to take action.

“We will not leave the separatist organization in peace in both Iraq and Syria,” Erdogan said in a speech on Saturday in the eastern town of Malatya, referring to the YPG in Syria and PKK bases in Iraq. “We know that if we do not drain the swamp, we cannot get rid of flies.”

The YPG denies Turkish allegations of links with Kurdish militants inside Turkey, saying it is only interested in self-rule in Syria and warning that any Turkish assault will draw its fighters away from the battle against Islamic State which they are waging in an alliance with local Arab forces.

Erdogan’s comments follow the appointment of three new leaders of Turkey’s army, air force and navy last week —moves which analysts and officials said were at least partly aimed at preparing for any campaign against the YPG militia.

Turkish forces swept into north Syria last year to seize territory from Islamic State, while also cutting off Kurdish-controlled northeast Syria from the Kurdish pocket of Afrin further west. They thereby prevented Kurdish control over almost the whole sweep of the border —Ankara’s worst-case scenario.

Recent clashes have centered around the Arab towns of Tal Rifaat and Minnigh, near Afrin, which are held by the YPG and allied fighters.

Erdogan said Turkey’s military incursion last year dealt a blow to “terrorist projects” in the region and promised further action. “We will make new and important moves soon,” he said.

  Germany Abetting Terrorism

Amid a widening rift between Ankara and Berlin, Erdogan also accused Germany on Monday of assisting terrorists by not responding to thousands of files sent to it or handing over suspects wanted by Turkish authorities.

“Germany is abetting terrorists,” Erdogan told a conference in the Black Sea province of Rize, in comments likely to further escalate tensions between the two countries.

“We gave (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel 4,500 dossiers, but have not received an answer on a single one of them,” he told members of his ruling AK Party.

“When there is a terrorist, they can tell us to give that person back. You won’t send the ones you have to us, but can ask us for yours. So you have a judiciary, but we don’t in Turkey?” he said.

In Berlin, a German government source rejected Erdogan’s latest remarks.

“Everything has really been said about this,” said the source. “Repeating the same accusations over and over again does not make them any more true.”

 

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