Turkey’s Erdoğan says to launch operation into Syria at any moment

Turkey is set to launch a cross-border military operation into neighbouring Syria "any moment now", President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Monday.

Erdoğan said he had spoken to U.S. President Donald Trump about Ankara’s plans for an operation against Syrian Kurdish forces east of the River Euphrates, pro-government Hürriyet newspaper reported.

"We can start our operation any moment now in the Syrian territory at any place especially along the 500-km border, without harming U.S. soldiers," the Turkish president said at a rally in the central Turkish city of Konya.

"We spoke with Mr. Trump, these terrorists must leave the east of the Euphrates. If they don’t leave we’re going to send them away because they bother us. Since we are strategic partners with the United States then we must do what is necessary,” Erdoğan said, adding,"Turkey will do what is necessary regarding terror corridors east of River Euphrates. If they do not leave, we'll remove them. Because they are disturbing us." 

Turkey and the United States have long disagreed over their Syria policy with Washington backing the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara maintains is the Syrian wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group at war in Turkey for more than three decades and recognised as a terrorist organisation by both Ankara and Washington.

Erdoğan’s comments come following what Ankara says are delays in the implementation of a deal with Washington made earlier this year to clear the YPG from the northern Syrian town of Manbij, located west of the Euphrates.

It would be Turkey’s third major military operation in Syria in two years.