Turkey to launch offensive into Syria at right time - Defence Minister

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar on Friday said Turkey continues to prepare for a military operation on the east of the Euphrates River in Syria that would start “at the right time for Ankara,” state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

“The Turkish armed forces will start to clear the areas on the east to the Euphrates River of terrorists at the right time for Ankara, as they had done before in others regions of Syria,” Akar said.

The minister also said they had already completed the operation plans, but necessary preparations continued for the military campaign to be launched against Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey sees as an extension of outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

“We have Manbij, and the east of the Euphrates ahead. Necessary planning was made regarding this. Our preparation continues intensely.”

Ankara has no problems with ethnic Kurds, Akar said, adding that Turkey only targeted ISIS and the Kurdish militia in Syria.

Turkey views the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which is allied with the United States in the fight against the Islamic State, as a terrorist group, an offshoot of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), which has waged an armed insurgency in Turkey since the 1980s. 

He also said that Turkey respects the sovereignty of Syria and Iraq, but added the operation was justified in Ankara’s view. 

“But to protect our own security, we are required to take some measures,” he added. 

Akar is the second senior Turkish official that announced Ankara would go ahead with plans to start a military operation in Syria, following U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton’s visit to Ankara earlier this week to discuss the future of Syria after the United States withdraws its forces in the country.

Bolton said before his visit to Ankara that Washington didn’t want Turkey to take any military action in Syria unless it guarantees the safety of the U.S.-backed YPG.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan refused to meet Bolton as a result and the U.S. national security adviser only met his Turkish counterpart İbrahim Kalın.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Thursday said that Turkey’s military operation in Syria was independent of U.S. withdrawal.

“Turkey will go ahead with its planned offensive against Kurdish militias in northeastern Syria whether or not the U.S. withdraws its troops from the country,” he said during a television program on NTV.

The United States began withdrawing troops this week, according to an American spokesman, Reuters reported

“When the time and place comes the terrorists here will be buried in the ditches they have dug, as was done in previous operations,” he said, Reuters reported.