ANKARA – Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the United States on Wednesday of planning to create a terrorist state ruled by the Kurdish militias in northern Syria.
Erdogan launched on Saturday a military offensive called operation “Olive Branch” in the northern Syrian enclave of Afrin against the Kurdish YPG militias, which form the majority of the multi-ethnic Syrian Democratic Forces in control of swathes of territory in north Syria.
“This operation will continue, in a resolute manner. We will root out this (terrorist threat),” said Erdogan in a statement to the press on Wednesday in which he acknowledged the death of three Turkish soldiers in the operation and claimed 268 casualties among the SDF and YPG.
Erdogan has called the SDF and the YPG a part of the PKK, a group of socialist Kurdish nationalists who have fought a guerrilla war for Kurdish independence in Turkey’s southeast since the 1980s.
“We have an organization (the PKK and YPG/SDF) that is trying to invade Turkey and has the blood of tens of thousands of innocents on its hands. Forget Kurdish nationalism and socialism, I myself am suspicious of their humanity. At Afrin we are struggling against (people) who hold a mentality opposed to all mankind,” Turkey’s hardline leader said.
Operation Olive Branch is currently focused on the Kurdish region of Afrin, but Turkey has announced that it will extend its actions to Manbij, another Syrian city on the Turkish border occupied by the YPG since the summer of 2016.
Erdogan accused former US President Barack Obama of having deceived Turkey in 2016 by not fulfilling his promise to expel the “terrorists” from Manbij.
The Turkish leader is expected to hold a telephone conversation on Wednesday with US President Donald Trump to discuss the military operation.
On Monday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expressed his concern about the incursion of Turkish forces in northern Syria but acknowledged that Turkey has the right to defend itself.
Erdogan stressed that the objective of the offensive was to execute justice and not to achieve territorial gains, and added that, when the operation concludes, 3.5 million Syrians who live as refugees in Turkey will be able to return home.
“Our border security is important but the safety of our Arabic, Turkmen and Kurdish brothers is equally important,” said the Turkish leader.