Turkey to launch Syria offensive if US delays pullout :FM

11 January, 2019 12:00 AM printer

ISTANBUL: Turkey will launch an offensive against Syrian Kurdish forces if the United States delays the withdrawal of its troops from the war-torn country, the foreign minister said Thursday, reports AFP.

“If the (pullout) is put off with ridiculous excuses like Turks are massacring Kurds, which do not reflect the reality, we will implement this decision,” Mevlut Cavusoglu told NTV television. Turkey and the United States are at loggerheads over the future of Syrian Kurdish forces after US President Donald Trump made a surprise announcement last month to pull out 2,000 troops from Syria.

Ahead of Trump’s move, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to launch another operation in Syria targeting the US-backed Syrian Kurdish militia, which Turkey regards as a terrorist group.

Turkish officials had a tense meeting this week with Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton in Ankara aimed at coordinating the pullout process.  Erdogan—who has welcomed the pullout plan—accused Bolton of a “grave mistake” by demanding that Ankara provide assurances on the safety of the Kurdish fighters before Washington withdraws its troops.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is on a regional tour, also said Wednesday that Turkey had committed to protecting Washington’s Kurdish allies fighting the Islamic State in Syria.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday that a full US troop withdrawal from Syria announced by President Donald Trump last month will go ahead despite widespread criticism.

“President Trump’s decision to withdraw our troops has been made. We will do that,” Pompeo told a joint press conference in Cairo with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.

The US top diplomat is on a whistlestop tour of the Middle East to address the concerns of regional allies about the surprise pullout plan.

On the other hand, the main jihadist alliance in Syria’s Idlib region reached a deal on Thursday ending days of deadly fighting with rival rebels and extending its influence over the whole rebel enclave, reports AFP.

The agreement brings an immediate end to the fighting between Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), led by Al-Qaeda’s former Syria affiliate, and the rival Turkish-backed National Liberation Front (NLF), according to the jihadists’ propaganda website Ebaa. “This morning, HTS and the NLF signed an agreement to put an end to ongoing fighting... and establish the control of the salvation government in all areas,” Ebaa said.

The so-called “salvation government” is the administrative arm of HTS, which has been gaining ground inside Syria’s last major rebel bastion in recent days.


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