Erdogan: Turkey planning new military offensives in Syria
Turkey is planning new offensives inside Syria against groups deemed terrorist organisations by Ankara, even after the completion of its six-month-long operation in the country’s north, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday.
Turkey announced last week that it had completed the Euphrates Shield operation in Syria, which began in August to expel Islamic State (IS) militants and Kurdish militia groups from the border area.
But Erdogan indicated that this by no means meant an end to cross-border operations by Ankara against IS and Kurdish groups classified by Turkey as terror groups, like the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
"The first stage, the Euphrates Shield operation... is over. But more will follow," Erdogan said in a speech in the Trabzon region near the Black Sea ahead of the April 16 referendum on expanding his powers.
"There is no stopping, the road continues. We are making preparations for new operations in other regions for getting to the terrorists on their hills. We will give new names to the new operations," he said.
Erdogan said IS, the PKK and also the Peoples' Protection Units (YPG), a Surian Kurdish militia, would face "very nice surprises" from the spring.
The YPG is an ally of the United States in the fight against IS in Syria, but is seen by Turkey as a terror group and the Syrian branch of the PKK.
"The next months with God's permission will be spring for the Turkish nation and a black winter for the terrorists," Erdogan added.
He did not specify where the new operations could take place.
Plans for a joint operation with the United States to capture the de facto IS capital of Raqqa have floundered over Washington's support for the involvement of the YPG.
Turkey meanwhile wants to expel the YPG out of the strategic Syrian town of Manbij.
There has also been repeated speculation of new action to defeat the PKK in its stronghold of northern Iraq.
Analysts have said that Turkey risks being sidelined as the war in Syria enters a new phase, with the United States working with the Kurdish fighters, and Russia also open to cooperation with the YPG.
Operation Euphrates Shield which began on August 24 saw Syrian opposition fighters backed by the Turkish army recapture towns including Jarabulus, Al-Rai, Dabiq and Al-Bab.