Turkey eyeing new incursion following Idlib deal - The Arab Weekly

After reaching an agreement with Moscow last month on a demilitarised buffer zone in the Syrian rebel stronghold of Idlib, Turkey is considering a new incursion into other parts of Syria, journalist Thomas Seibert wrote for The Arab Weekly.

The Sept. 17 deal between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan effectively delayed what was expected to be a Syrian government offensive to seize control of the last major rebel-held territory in the country and while avert a humanitarian crisis in the region which is home to 1.5 million people. 

“God willing, in the upcoming period, we will increase safe zones within Syria, also encompassing the eastern Euphrates,” Erdoğan said in a speech on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. He said the Turkish goal was to clear what he called terrorists from Syrian territory, all the way from the town of Manbij, just west of the Euphrates, to the Iraqi border.

Pro-government media in Turkey said the Turkish military was planning attacks against Kurdish positions in Kobane, Tal Abyad, Ras al-Ayn and Qamishli, Seibert said, stressing that the pro-Erdoğan Yeni Şafak newspaper in particular reported what it called a new safe zone would be established, stretching east of the Euphrates to the Iraqi border, reaching 50-60 km into Syria from Turkish territory.

A possible cross-border action in those regions would widen the areas occupied by Turkey in neighbouring Syria considerably, the article said, but the area is part of an autonomous region set up by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Syrian Kurdish militia, which forms the backbone of the U.S. fight against Islamic State.

Erdoğan was “both playing to domestic audiences as well as sending warning signals” to the United States with his statement about a possible new Syria operation, according to Roland Popp, a security analyst in Zurich focusing on Middle Eastern affairs.