Erdogan wants to expand military presence in east Syria

Erdogan wants to expand military presence in east Syria
The Turkish president has previously warned of new military operations against YPG forces, which control the Syrian region east of the Euphrates.
2 min read
24 September, 2018
The YPG has been Washington's main ally against IS in Syria, infuriating Erdogan [Getty]
Turkey is looking to expand its presence in Syria by setting up "secure zones" east of the Euphrates river.

The country has already established secure zones in the northern town of Afrin, where its troops seized military control from Kurdish YPG forces. Turkey has since set up local systems of governance in the swathe of land under its control and protected by Turkish forces.

The YPG, which Ankara considers a terrorist organisation, also controls the Syrian region east of the Euphrates.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the plans in comments broadcast on Monday morning, Reuters reported.

"God willing, in the period ahead we will increase the number of secure zones in Syria, encompassing the east of the Euphrates," he said in a speech during a visit to New York, where world leaders have gathered for the UN General Assembly.

Erdogan has previously warned of further military operations against the YPG along the Syrian border and if necessary into northern Iraq, following Operation Euphrates Shield which targeted YPG fighters east of Afrin and Operation Olive Branch, targeting Afrin itself.

However an expanding Turkish operation where Kurdish forces are present risks a clash with troops of NATO ally the United States, which backs the Islamic State-fighting YPG forces.

Washington's coordination with YPG forces fighting IS in Syria has infuriated Ankara, which sees the Kurdish force as an extension of a militant group waging a decades-long insurgency in southeast Turkey.

Rights group Amnesty International last month accused Turkish forces of allowing Syrian armed groups to commit major rights abuses in Afrin, which Turkish armed forces "turned a blind eye" to.

"These violations include arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, and confiscation of property and looting to which Turkey's armed forces have turned a blind eye," Amnesty said.

Last week, Syrian regime ally Russia and rebel backer Turkey announced a deal to impose a demilitarised zone in rebel-held Idlib, potentially averting a full-scale regime assault on the northwestern province.