Erdogan says new offensive in Syria's north to start 'very soon'

ISTANBUL, Ergin Hava (dpa)- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday renewed threats to oust US-allied Kurdish fighters from along Turkey's border with Syria "very soon," despite ongoing talks with the United States.
"God willing, very soon, we will switch to a different phase of the process which we started with the Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations," Erdogan said, referring to Turkish military operations in Syria over the past three years.

The Turkish leader called it a "top priority" for his country to completely remove the US-backed Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) from Syria's north and said that Turkey is determined to go ahead "with or without its allies."
Ankara sees the YPG as terrorists; but for the US, the militia has been a key partner in fighting Islamic State.
A group of US officials is currently in Ankara for talks on a proposed buffer zone in the border region, according to state news agency Anadolu, after negotiations failed in July over the depth of such a zone and who would control it.
Erdogan had already announced an offensive in July to establish a so-called safe zone, designed to stem the flow of migrants into Turkey and push the YPG from the country's borders.
Turkey is home to 3.6 million refugees from Syria. Many still attempt to illegally cross the border in a bid to reach Europe.
Turkey already controls areas west of the Euphrates River following the two military offensives against the YPG.
Turkish-US ties have been strained over a number of issues, including Ankara's purchase of Russian missile defence system which Washington strongly opposed.
Washington says the Russian S-400 is a threat to the F-35 stealth jets and that Turkey can't have both. Turkey had planned to buy 100 F-35s from the US but Washington is now kicking Turkey out of the programme.
The US has threatened sanctions yet it remains unclear whether President Donald Trump would take measures against its NATO ally.
"I believe Mr Trump will not allow Turkish-American ties to become captive of the S-400 issue," Erdogan said on Tuesday.
Turkey has made a "trade choice" with the S-400 purchase, Erdogan said as he claimed other NATO allies had bought Russian systems and that the issue should not turn into a crisis.
Turkey started receiving components of the S-400 surface-to-air missile defence system from Russia on July 12 with more deliveries expected.
The country hopes to put the S-400 system online in April next year, Erdogan had earlier said.

Wednesday, August 7th 2019
Ergin Hava (dpa)

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