Ankara’s operation against Kurdish-led forces in Syria doesn’t hinge on a US pull-out, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has warned. He also branded the US allegations that Turkey seeks to “slaughter” Kurds as “absurd.”
Speaking to broadcaster NTV on Thursday, Cavusoglu said that military action against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), considered to be terrorists by Ankara “is not dependent on whether the US pulls out or not.”
Our President said we will enter east of Euphrates and start this operation before this decision was taken.
Earlier, the US National Security Advisor John Bolton demanded safety guarantees for Syria’s Kurds from Ankara amid the planned US withdrawal. The condition did not sit well with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“If they are terrorists, we will do what is necessary no matter where they come from,” he fired back at the American official. Saying that it’s not possible for Turkey to make concessions here, Erdogan branded Bolton’s demand “a mistake.”
In a direct follow up to Erdogan’s comments, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo apparently tried to somewhat water down the tough rhetoric on both sides. The top US diplomat said that Erdogan has “made commitments” and has in fact “no beef with the Kurds.”
“We want to make sure that that’s the case,” Pompeo added.
Yet, in his NTV interview on Thursday, Cavusoglu doubled down on Ankara’s position. “If they [the US] delay this process with false and absurd excuses like unreal statements such as ‘Turks will slaughter the Kurds,’ then we will implement this decision,” he said, referring to the looming Turkish operation in Syria to the east of the Euphrates.
The Kurdish-led militias in Syria – and the YPG in particular – have been a bone of contention between Washington and Ankara for quite some time. The US, which has supplied arms to the Kurds, has repeatedly praised the units in their fight against the Islamic State.
Ankara for its part regards YPG as “terrorists” and an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The party’s militants have been waging an insurgency in Turkey’s south east for decades.
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