Turkey ‘determined’ to hit YPG despite US call
Turkey will carry out a military operation in Afrin in northern Syria, Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli vowed in an interview with private broadcaster A Haber on the morning of Jan. 19.
“The threat level against Turkey is increasing day by day. This operation will be carried out and we will combat terrorism,” Canikli said, referring to a long-anticipated operation against the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Afrin, seen by Ankara as organically linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
According to the minister, the Afrin operation should be carried out without delay and Ankara and Moscow will continue talks about Turkey’s planned military action.
The United States State Department on Jan. 18 urged Turkey not to take any action in northern Syria, calling on Ankara to remain focused on the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
At a news briefing, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the U.S. wanted Turkey to abstain from violence in the northwestern city of Afrin.
“We would call [...] on the Turks to not take any actions of that sort,” Nauert said.
The army is “trying to choose the best timing,” Canikli said, adding that the operation has “already started de facto” with artillery fire from the Turkish border.
He did not elaborate on the issue of whether Russia had given consent for Turkey’s use of Syrian airspace during a possible Afrin operation. “There are necessary steps to be taken in order to bring the military operation to maturity,” Canikli said.
Turkey’s chief of military chief and intelligence chief had discussions in Moscow on Jan. 18 seeking approval for the use of Syrian airspace for Turkish jets.
Elaborating on Russian observer troops in the Afrin province, Canikli cited statements from Russia that they had withdrawn from the region.
The Syrian government on Jan. 18 warned Turkey against launching a military operation in the northwestern region of Afrin, vowing that Syrian air defenses stood ready to defend against such an “acts of aggression.”
“We warn the Turkish leadership that if they initiate combat operations in the Afrin area, that will be considered an act of aggression by the Turkish army,” Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Meqdad said in comments reported by state media.
Syrian forces stand ready to take out any Turkish targets within the Syrian airfield, SANA reported, citing the deputy minister.
“Syria will confront any Turkish aggression or military action against its territory with appropriate response,” Meqdad told reporters in a press briefing.
Canikli underlined the fact that most of the Syrian regime’s active military capacity is provided by other countries.
“We know that the regime’s capacity to follow up this rhetoric is limited. Such a move should not be considered as just the idea of the regime,” he stated, without directly giving the names of Iran and Russia, which both support the military capacity of Damascus.
Turkey expects any military action into Afrin will not take long “because the demographic structure of the region does not match up” with the YPG forces there, Canikli also stated.