Turkish army set to launch new Syria offensive

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar on Sunday said the country’s armed forces are ready to intervene in northern Syria’s Manbij and east of the Euphrates River, reported state-run Anadolu Agency.

“What happens in Syria is a matter of survival for us. Our preparations for Manbij and east of the Euphrates are complete,” Akar said at the ruling Justice and Development Party’s rally in the southern Turkish province of Hatay. “We will take the necessary steps when the time comes upon the orders of our president.”

Akar stressed that Turkey had no problems with Syrian Kurds.

“Let me be very clear in that the Kurds are our brothers. We are at each other’s pockets, we are one and we can never be separated, our struggle is against terrorists and terror,” he said.

The status of areas controlled by Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG), which form the backbone of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), has been an ongoing source of tension. Turkey has demanded the YPG withdraw from the territory and threatened to evict its fighters by force but has been deterred by the presence of U.S. forces. Since U.S. President Donald Trump announced on Dec. 19 U.S. plans to withdraw from Syria, Ankara has been uttering its request more frequently.

As Turkey, we have always been on the side of peace,” Akar said, adding that Ankara would always protect its rights and interests.

The Defence Minister added that Ankara would continue its advocacy for a safe zone in northern Syria to prevent further suffering in the region, according to Anadolu Agency.