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Turkey May Start New Syria Operation at Any Moment, Erdogan Says

Turkey May Start New Syria Operation at Any Moment, Erdogan Says

Turkey has vowed to launch a new offensive against the People's Protection Units, or YPG, which is the main component of a US -allied force that drove Islamic State militants out of much of eastern Syria. But analysts warn mixed messages between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies is complicating de-escalation efforts.

Turkey and the United States have had tense relations in recent years, in part due to Ankara's concerns over USA support for the YPG, which is viewed by the Turkish authorities as an affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization in Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

On Monday, U.S. Ambassador on Syrian Affairs Jim Jeffrey appeared to contradict Erdogan.

The European Union's foreign policy chief on Saturday (15 December) asked Turkey to forgo any unilateral military action in Syria, where Ankara has threatened a fresh offensive against a US-backed Kurdish militia.

Ankara strongly objects to American support of a Kurdish presence along its border, a threat the Turks interpret as a more serious long-term challenge to stability than the so-called Islamic State.

Some 2,000 troops have helped rid much of north-eastern Syria of IS, but pockets of fighters remain.

Stoking tensions, Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu dismissed USA warnings. A recent United States report said there were still as many as 14,000 IS militants in Syria and even more in neighbouring Iraq - and there is a fear they will shift to guerrilla tactics in an attempt to rebuild their network. "Now, they will try to hold us back east of the Euphrates".

A vehicle bomb killed at least nine people, including five civilians, near a pro-Turkey rebel post in the northern Syrian city of Afrin on Sunday, a British-based war monitor said.

Ahmed Kurdi, a local security official, said the bombing killed eight and wounded 24 others, all of them civilians.

"The question is when and how it will carry out this military operation". If they do not leave, we will dispatch them. YPG is a part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and supported by the United States.

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Washington is touting the peshmerga force as a potential buffer between the YPG and the Turkish frontier. "So that is one of the various steps being taken", Jeffrey said.

But the PYD and YPG reportedly rejected the offer. Although no reason was given, the PYD/YPG has long mistrusted the Barzani-backed force. "Turkey did not, and will not, allow that". Turkey is facing economic recession, and opinion polls indicate Erdogan's ruling AKP Party is hemorrhaging votes. Following the arrests, the organizers said the attitude of the Berlin police was Germany's way of supporting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. "The timing suggests the AKP may be back to its old methods of garnering votes by appealing to nationalists and Turkish ethnic sentiments, and it's a unsafe game".

The U.S. -Kurdish alliance has soured relations between Ankara and Washington.

Washington has lifted its sanctions, but the Turkish economy remains fragile.

Although no date has been given, the operation is expected to open with cross-border shelling and bombing by Turkish artillery and aircraft within Turkey.

U.S. troops have largely been stationed in the Kurdish region in northern Syria.

Al-Moallem also said Turkey and Western countries are to blame for the delay in forming a committee to draft a constitution, which the United Nations and the USA see as key to ending the seven-year civil war.

Given the high stakes, analysts predict bilateral diplomatic efforts are likely to intensify.

"We don't have permanent relations with sub-state entities", he said, adding the USA supported the SDF with the specific goal of fighting against ISIL.

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