Turkey to launch imminent Syria operation against YPG
1st January 2019

Turkish forces hit Syrian Kurd militia with artillery fire as President Erdogan vows attack on YPG-controlled Afrin.

    Turkey’s president vowed “to purge terrorism” across the border in Syria, as Turkish forces pounded US-backed fighters with artillery fire on Sunday.

    A military operation in northern Syria against the city of Afrin – controlled by the Syrian Kurdish armed group YPG – will be launched “in the days ahead”, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying by the official Anadolu news agency.

    He said the attack on Afrin would be an extension of the 2016 Euphrates Shield Operation, which targeted Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) fighters, as well as the YPG. The eight-month combat effort officially ended in March 2017.

    Turkish soldiers are currently based in rebel-held territory on both sides of Afrin.

    “In the coming days, God willing, we will continue with the Afrin [operation] that we started first with Euphrates Shield Operation to purge terrorism from our southern borders,” Erdogan said in a speech in central Anatolian Tokat province.

    The US views the YPG as the most effective fighting force against ISIL.

    US President Donald Trump decided to arm YPG fighters, despite Turkey’s objections and a direct appeal from Erdogan at a White House meeting last May.

    American arms shipments began before the offensive to recapture the city of Raqqa from ISIL. YPG played a prominent role in defeating the group in its former de facto capital in northern Syria late last year.

    Tensions between the NATO allies remain high, despite Trump saying last November that Washington would no longer supply weapons to the YPG.

    Without mentioning the US, Erdogan said on Sunday he expected allies not to make “mistakes” by “taking sides” with the YPG during the battle for Afrin.

    “We expect from our allies that they behave in accordance with the spirit of our deep-rooted relationship during this process,” Erdogan said, adding “despite everything” he hoped for cooperation to achieve “common interests” in the region.

    “I hope these forces will not make a mistake of appearing on the same stage with the terrorist organisation during the Afrin operation,” the president said.

    A senior Syrian Kurdish official said on Sunday that fighting between the YPG and Turkish forces was already under way.

    “There is attacks and clashes on the border between Turkey and the People’s Protection Units YPG,” Hediye Yusuf said on Twitter.

    She called Turkey’s operation against Afrin a “violation” that “undermines international efforts to reach a political solution in Syria”.

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