Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has underlined his determination to carry on with his plan for a new cross-border offensive in neighboring Syria to remove members of the US-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militant group from border areas.
“We will continue our fight against terrorism. Our decision to establish a 30-kilometer-deep (18.6-mile) secure line along our southern border is final,” Erdogan said in an address to Turkish diplomats attending the 13th Ambassadors Conference in the capital Ankara on Monday.
He went on to say that he hoped Turkey would soon eliminate the remaining pockets of the militant group in Syria.
Last month, Erdogan hinted that a new Turkish operation against the YPG militants will remain on the agenda until security concerns are addressed.
Back on July 19, the Turkish president earned a rebuke for his push for the offensive from Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, whose country has been helping Syria in its anti-terror campaign, in a bilateral meeting.
Ayatollah Khamenei told Erdogan that any Turkish offensive on Syria would be “detrimental” to Syria, Turkey itself, and the entire region, calling for the issue to be resolved through dialog between Ankara, Damascus, Moscow, and Tehran.
Moscow has also previously called on Ankara to “refrain” from an attack.
Erdogan on May 23 signaled a new Turkish cross-border operation in northern Syria with the declared aim of creating a 30-kilometer (18.6-mile) wide safe zone along Turkey’s border with Syria.
He did not provide further details but said the operation would be launched as soon as military, intelligence, and security forces have completed their preparations.
Turkey has deployed forces in Syria in violation of the Arab country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Ankara-backed militants were deployed to northeastern Syria in October 2019 after Turkish military forces launched a long-threatened cross-border invasion in a declared attempt to push YPG fighters away from border areas.
Ankara views the YPG as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since 1984.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and other senior officials have said Damascus will respond through all legitimate means available to Turkey’s ongoing ground offensive.