Ankara will step up its offensive against the Kurds in northeastern Syria if Washington fails to have the Kurdish fighters withdrawn by Tuesday evening, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned.
Erdogan said Turkey will resume the offensive into Kurdish-controlled territories if the US fails to facilitate the withdrawal of the Kurdish militias from the areas along the Turkish-Syrian border once the five-day ceasefire expires at 10pm local time (19:00 GMT) on Tuesday.
If the promises given to us by America are not kept, we will continue our operation from where it left off, this time with a much bigger determination.
Ankara launched an offensive, dubbed Operation Peace Spring, two weeks ago, aiming to create a 20-mile ‘safe zone’ along its border with Syria, which would be free from the Kurdish militias it considers terrorists. Turkey later agreed to temporarily suspend the assault, under the condition that the US would oversee a withdrawal of the Kurdish forces.
Speaking on Tuesday afternoon, Erdogan said that the retreat of the Kurdish fighters was in progress and closely monitored by Turkey.
The Kurds, fighting under the umbrella group the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), have been one of the key American allies in fighting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants in northeastern Syria. This relation changed dramatically after US President Donald Trump announced that the US troops will be completely leaving the area. The news came mere days before the Turkish invasion, quickly prompting the Kurds to seek the help from Syrian leader Bashar Assad and Russia.
Syrian government troops eventually entered the cities of Manbij and Raqqa, shortly after the US soldiers have left them.