Erdogan announces 'new phase' for Turkish operations in Kurdish-controlled northern Syria

Erdogan announces 'new phase' for Turkish operations in Kurdish-controlled northern Syria
Erdogan and senior Turkish ministers have long been threatening new operations into Kurdish-controlled parts of northern Syria
2 min read
01 June, 2022
The Turkish president said the operation would target the Tal Rifaat and Manbij areas [Anadolu via Getty]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday announced Turkey would be launching new incursions into Kurdish-controlled areas in northern Syria.

Turkey has for weeks threatened to invade parts of northern Syria currently under the control of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), vowing to root out "terrorists " and create a buffer zone along the Syrian-Turkish border.

After days of rumours, Erdogan speaking on Wednesday at a parliamentary group meeting in Ankara for his Justice and Development Party (AKP) confirmed new Turkish military operations in northern Syria were being planned.

"We are entering a new phase of our decision to create a 30-kilometre-deep safe zone (Syria). We are clearing Tel Rifaat and Manbij from terrorists," Turkish state news outlet Anadolu Agency reported Erdogan saying.

The People's Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish militia, make up much of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Turkey considers the YPG to be the Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a Kurdish militia that Ankara, the EU and US have designated a terrorist group.

Turkey has launched three similar operations in northern Syria recent years - most recently Operation Peace Spring in October 2019, in which Turkey wrenched control of the towns of Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad and their surrounding areas from the hands of the SDF.

Turkish forces also took control of some towns from the Islamic State group in northern Syria.

That operation saw scores of civilians killed, hundreds injured, and tens of thousands displaced from their homes in an ethnically diverse part of Syria.

Erdogan's announcement of the operation comes as he plans to send one million Syrian refugees in Turkey to Idlib, northwestern Syria.

Critics say Erdogan's pursuits in Syria are to distract from domestic woes, including economic decline, before elections in 2023.