Erdogan: Military campaigns expanded in Syria and Iraq

Erdogan: Military campaigns expanded in Syria and Iraq
Erdogan has announced the expansion of operation Olive Branch to Tel Rifaat in Syria and Sinjar in Iraqi Kurdistan, also warning the US to leave Manbij or face confrontation.
2 min read
25 March, 2018
Erdogan made a series of bold declarations at his party summit on Sunday [Getty]
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Sunday that the Syrian-Kurdish held town of Tel Rifaat will "shortly" be under Turkish control, as part of the ongoing Olive Branch military operation to eradicate the People's Protection Units (YPG) militia from northern Syria.

Speaking at his party summit in the Black Sea resort of Trabzon, the Turkish leader also announced that the offensive had begun expanding into Sinjar, located in Iraqi Kurdistan, stressing that his country "fights terrorists at home and abroad."

"We said we would also enter Sinjar, and now the military operation has begun there," Erdogan announced, according to al-Araby al-Jadeed.

"We are not an occupying state; our objective is to combat the terrorists," the Turkish president added.

Turkey - under its ambitious, increasingly authoritarian leader - has been waging a military campaign since 20 January against the YPG in Syria.

Ankara considers the group to be an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), an insurgent group deemed a terrorist organisation by Turkey.

Erdogan also announced that 3,747 PKK and Islamic State group "terrorists" had been "neutralised" since the beginning of the operation, supported by Syrian rebel fighters, that begun in Afrin, northern Syria.

On Saturday, Turkey announced it had taken 'full control' of Afrin city from Kurdish forces.

Nearly 170,000 people have reportedly fled Afrin city amid deadly violence along with food and aid shortages. Most sought refuge in nearby Tel Rifaat, according to the UN.

Erdogan's latest announcement suggests the violence they fled will soon catch up with them. 

The Turkish leader also called on the US to hand the northern Syrian town of Manbij - which it currently controls along with the YPG - to its "true owners", the Syrian people.

Despite being a NATO ally of the US, Erdogan has warned Washington that if it fails to comply Turkey will take action.

The PKK said on Friday it would pull out its fighters from northwestern Iraq, after Ankara warned of its intention to launch an attack on their strongholds in Iraqi Kurdistan.