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AFP
January 11, 2019

Turkey vows to launch Syria offensive

World

AFP
January 11, 2019

ISTANBUL: Turkey will launch an offensive against Syrian Kurdish forces if the United States delays the withdrawal of its troops from the war-torn country, the foreign minister said on Thursday.

"If the (pullout) is put off with ridiculous excuses like Turks are massacring Kurds, which do not reflect the reality, we will implement this decision," Mevlut Cavusoglu told NTV television.

Turkey and the United States are at loggerheads over the future of Syrian Kurdish forces after US President Donald Trump made a surprise announcement last month to pull out 2,000 troops from Syria.

Ahead of Trump’s move, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to launch another operation in Syria targeting the US-backed Syrian Kurdish militia, which Turkey regards as a terrorist group.

Turkish officials had a tense meeting this week with Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton in Ankara aimed at coordinating the pullout process.

Erdogan -- who has welcomed the pullout plan -- accused Bolton of a "grave mistake" by demanding that Ankara provide assurances on the safety of the Kurdish fighters before Washington withdraws its troops.

American forces have worked closely with the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia, seen by Ankara as a "terrorist offshoot" of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.

Cavusoglu said Turkey would go ahead with its incursion plan. "We are determined on the field and at the table... We will decide on its timing and we will not receive permission from anyone."

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday that a full US troop withdrawal from Syria announced by President Donald Trump last month will go ahead despite widespread criticism.

The US top diplomat made his remarks while on a whistlestop tour of the Middle East to address the concerns of regional allies about the surprise pullout plan. "President Trump’s decision to withdraw our troops has been made. We will do that," Pompeo told a joint press conference in Cairo with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.

Earlier this week, US National Security Adviser John Bolton laid out conditions for the pullout, including the defeat of the Islamic State group in Syria and gurantees for the safety of Washington’s Kurdish allies in the campaign, who have been threatened with an imminent offensive by Turkey.

Bolton’s comments were widely seen as backtracking on Trump’s announcement. But Pompeo insisted the two statements were entirely consistent. "There is no contradiction whatsoever. This is a story made up by the media," said Pompeo, underscoring Washington’s continuing commitment to preventing any resurgence by IS. From Cairo, Pompeo is scheduled to head to the capitals of the six Gulf Arab states to make his case.

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