Erdogan warns USA: "It will be a scorching summer"
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, addressing the heads of Turkish provincial governors on Friday, warned the Kurdish militias it is fighting in northwest Syria and the United States, saying that Turkey is "up for the challenge".
Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to defeat the mostly Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) which are control of Afrin, an area in northwest Syria. Turkey considers the YPG to be an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a terroris-designated group that has been in armed conflict with Turkey for decades.
The United States, however, see Kurdish forces connected to the YPG as essential allies in the fight against the Islamic State, has provided support to these groups, and has deployed ground forces to a nearby area under their control, Manbij.
"This summer will be scorching hot for both the terrorist organisation and its supporters," said Erdoğan. "If there are those who are prepared to sacrifice themselves for this cause, we are up for that challenge."
"Turkey can no longer stomach U.S. delaying tactics. We are carefully watching those (who are supporting) the terrorist organisation (PYD)," Erdoğan said. "If someone is planning to spend $500-550 million to support (the terrorists), are we supposed to wish them good luck?"
Erdoğan said in his speech that 1973 terrorists had been neutralised since the beginning of Operation Olive Branch
"Thousands of villages are now free from these terrorists," said the Turkish president, adding that Turkey's Syrian opposition allies, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), were fighting hard.
Erdoğan maintained that the Turkish army is planning to encircle Afrin city centre and denied that there had been any civilian casualties during the operation.
"Those who say that the civilians were killed in Afrin are obliged to prove those allegations. If we were attacking indiscriminately, we would be in Afrin city centre by now" he argued.
The Turkish president also reiterated his desire to return Syrian refugees hosted by Turkey to their own country, quoting the number in Turkey as 3.5 million.