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Iran Press TV

Ankara to discuss possible military operations in Syria with Russia, US

Iran Press TV

Tue May 2, 2017 3:15PM

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he will discuss Ankara's "possible operations" in northern Syria with Russia and the United States, vowing not to allow Kurdish militants to achieve their goals in the region.

The Turkish leader made the comments during a special ceremony at the headquarters of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the capital, Ankara, held on the occasion of his return to the membership of the ruling AKP after three years. Hundreds of party officials were in attendance.

According to the old system, run before the recent constitutional referendum, the president of the country had to cut ties with his political party upon taking office and was banned from being affiliated with a political party during his tenure. Erdogan, consequently, left the AKP, which he co-founded in 2001, when he came to power in August 2014.

The approved reforms by the plebiscite, however, allowed him to once again return to his party. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, the current chair of the AKP, will leave the chairmanship of the party just before May 21, when the party will elect Erdogan as the new head.

The Turkish leader said he would discuss Ankara's possible military operations against the northern Syrian cities of Manbij and Raqqah with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, when Erdogan will pay an official visit to Moscow.

He added that he would also discuss the same issue with his American counterpart Donald Trump in a visit to Washington later this month.

Raqqah, the capital of a province with the same name, has been the de facto capital of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in Syria since 2014.

On Monday, it was reported that the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had liberated some 80 percent of Tabqa, a city located some 55 kilometers from Raqqah. The US-backed SDF is largely composed of members of the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD), which in turn has the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) as its military wing.

The YPG, Washington's best ally on the ground in its military operations in Syria, is closely related to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is designated as a terrorist group by Ankara. The Turkish government claims that the YPG is the Syrian branch of the PKK, with which Turkey has been fighting a bloody war for the past several months.

The SDF with the US support allegedly plans to capture Raqqah and liberate it from Daesh elements after finishing with Tabqa. Turkey's possible military operations in Raqqah, in this context, could be viewed as a preemptive offensive against the restive city to obtain the credit of curbing Daesh in the area.

Erdogan, angry at Washington over its full support for the SDF forces, said during his Tuesday remarks that he "will not allow Kurdish militant groups to achieve their goals in northern Syria," expressing hope to start a new era in the Arab country.

In August 2016, Turkey began a major military intervention in Syria, sending tanks and warplanes across the border, claiming that its military campaign was aimed at pushing Daesh from Turkey's border with Syria and stopping the advance of Kurdish forces. Damascus denounces the operation as a breach of its sovereignty. In late March, Ankara announced the end of its military operations in Syria but did not rule out the possibility of yet another military intervention in war-torn Syria. Last Tuesday, Erdogan announced that Ankara would continue its operations in Syria and Iraq.

Strange case of Turkey's EU membership bid

Elsewhere in his remarks, Erdogan warned the European Union that Ankara would walk away from its long-running membership bid if new accession chapters were not opened.

"There is no option other than opening chapters that you have not opened until now. If you open, then great. If you don't open, then goodbye," said Erdogan, referring to EU leaders, adding, "Turkey is not their (the EU's) doorman."

Turkey has been attempting to become part of the EU for decades. Formal EU accession negotiations, however, began in 2005. The process has been mired in problems, mainly democracy and human rights issues, and only 16 chapters of the 35-chapter accession procedure have been opened for Ankara so far.

Relations began to deteriorate last year, when Turkey launched a massive crackdown on those alleged to have played a role in the 2016 coup attempt. The EU has already censured the large-scale imprisonment and dismissals of people following the failed putsch against Erdogan. Turkey, however, has defended the crackdown while accusing some EU states of supporting outlawed Turkish elements.

In March, Erdogan said he would revive the capital punishment after he emerged victorious in the April 16 referendum. The remarks angered EU authorities, prompting European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to say that the death penalty was a "red line" for the union's membership bid.

The fate of Turkey's EU membership bid is now deeply marred with conflicting views of both EU leaders and Ankara. It seems that a bumpy road is ahead of the post-plebiscite-emboldened Erdogan to convince EU leaders to grant Turkey its long-awaited EU membership.

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