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Erdogan says Turkey set to begin operation in northern Syria

01 November 2018

The SDF accused Turkey of supporting the IS militants in their advances, saying it was responsible for "temporarily stopping the battle to fight terrorism carried out by our forces against the last holdout of the terrorist group".

Erodgan recently increased threats to launch a major offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters near the Euphrates River. "Soon we will conduct more extensive and effective operations against terrorists", Erdogan said on Tuesday.

The Turkish government has always been seeking the YPG withdrawal from Manbij over security concerns, as it regards the YPG as an affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), blacklisted by Ankara as a terrorist organization.

Another Turkish operation-Olive Branch-launched alongside Turkish-backed rebels earlier this year ousted the YPG from the traditionally Kurdish-majority city of Afrin as well as outlying areas of countryside.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK - listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the USA and the European Union - has been responsible for the deaths of some 40,000 people, including women and children. French and American troops are on the ground fighting ISIS with the Kurdish forces in northern Syria.

"The U.S. needs the YPG against [IS], since Arab [fighters] of SDF are not as efficient, as we can see in Deir el-Zour", he said.

"Unilateral military strikes into northwest Syria by any party, particularly as American personnel may be present or in the vicinity, are of great concern to us", State Department spokesman Robert Palladino told reporters on Wednesday.

Turkish and U.S. troops are due to start conducting joint patrols in the Syrian city of Manbij later on Tuesday or Wednesday, Turkey's Defense Minister Hulusi Akar was quoted byAnadolu news agency as saying on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Palladino said the United States has been in touch both with Turkey and the Syrian Democratic Forces "to emphasize the need to de-escalate the situation". Kurdish units liberated Manbij from Daesh* in 2016.

Turkey had threatened in June to attack the town of Manbij, which had at that time been controlled by the Kurds.

The SDF responded on Wednesday with retaliatory artillery and machine gun fire, an SDF spokesperson told Syria Direct, resulting in the destruction of one Turkish military vehicle as well as a border post near Abu Salim, a village west of Kobane.

According to Turkish state news Anadolu Agency, at least four YPG fighters were killed and another six injured during the day's clashes. But Erdogan said Turkey was now prepared to press on.

Turkey's Defence Minister recently announced that the USA and Turkey were set to begin joint patrols in the northern Syrian city of Manbij this week as part of a so-called "roadmap" agreement for the city, now held by the SDF-affiliated Manbij Military Council.

Erdogan says Turkey set to begin operation in northern Syria