- Turkey hopes to create a "safe zone" along the Syrian border, where it would repatriate refugees currently in areas under its control.
- On Tuesday night, Turkish forces bombed northeastern Syria, preparing the ground for a military offensive.
- On Monday, US President Donald Trump made the announcement that American troops were withdrawing from the region.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed Wednesday that Turkey had launched a long-planned military operation against Kurdish forces in northern Syria. The move comes two days after the start of the withdrawal of American troops from the region. According to Erdogan, the Turkish army will attack armed groups in the region, such as Daesh (IS) and the People’s Protection Army (YPG). The groups are considered terrorist groups by Ankara.
Turkey hopes to create a “safe zone” along the Syrian border, where it would repatriate refugees currently in areas under its control, according to president Erdogan. The YPG was one of the main US allies in the fight against Daesh (IS) in Syria.
“The Turkish Armed Forces, together with the Syrian National Army, just launched #OperationPeaceSpring against PKK/YPG and Daesh terrorists in northern Syria,” Erdogan Tweeted, in reference to the Syrian-Kurdish force and the Islamic State. “Our mission is to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border, and to bring peace to the area,” he added.
On Tuesday night, Turkish forces bombed northeastern Syria, preparing the ground for a military offensive. The attacks targeted highways and roads in order to deny the Kurds the possibility of strengthening their positions and defense. Syrian state news agency SANA released a video showing explosions in one of two cities in the north-east of the country that were targeted by the bombs.
The offensive is a long-standing promise by the Turkish president, who didn’t attack the region before, simply because of the US military presence. On Monday, US President Donald Trump made the announcement that American troops were withdrawing from the region, leaving the YPG to the Turkish government. The day before, he had agreed with Erdogan, who is set to visit him in Washington this November.
A Kurdish spokesman described this decision as “a stab in the back.” The US Department of Defense insisted on Tuesday that the creation of the “security zone” is the “best way to maintain stability.” On Wednesday, a representative of Erdogan met Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien.
‘Peace and stability’ to Syria
Earlier Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin had a phone conversation with his Turkish counterpart. In the call, Erdogan said the Turkish offensive against a Kurdish Syrian militia would bring “peace and stability” to Syria. “The president stated that the planned military operation in the east of the Euphrates River will contribute to peace and stability in Syria and will pave the way for a peaceful solution,” said a source from the Turkish Presidency. Russia and Turkey support opposing sides in Syria. However, they have increased their cooperation in recent years.