Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday said Turkey will enter the area east of the Euphrates River in Syria and Ankara had notified the United States and Russia on the planned move.
“We entered Afrin, Jarablus, al-Bab. Now we will enter the (area) east of the Euphrates. We shared this (information) with Russia and the U.S. As long as harassment fire continues, we cannot remain silent,” state-run Anadolu News Agency quoted the Turkish president as saying.
Erdoğan that Turkey’s patience in the region had come to an end.
The statement follows warnings from Ankara to the United States that it would send troops into north-eastern Syria to remove Kurdish fighters, which it says pose a security threat, from a proposed “safe zone” that could be used for a mass return of the country’s 3.6 million Syrian refugees.
Turkish Defence Ministry earlier this week said that if Ankara failed to reach a common understanding with Washington on the long proposed safe zone, it would be forced to establish it unilaterally.
“Turkey is the only appropriate, ready and capable force in the region to control and provide security in that zone,” the ministry said.
Turkey wants a safe zone at least 30 km deep with Turkish forces in full control, while the United States favours a 10 km-deep area with no permanent Turkish troop presence. The zone is meant to provide a buffer between Turkey and parts of northern Syria controlled by the Syrian Kurdish forces of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a group Ankara says is affiliated with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The YPG made up the bulk of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance, that helped by U.S. air support, defeated Islamic State (IS) in Syria. But Turkey considers the YPG a threat to its national security.
Talks between Ankara and Washington on the creation a safe zone in northern Syria have produced no results, including a three-day visit to Ankara last month by the U.S. envoy for Syria, James Jeffrey.