Erdogan: Turkey Will 'Crush the Heads' of Kurds in Northern Syria if They Don't Withdraw Before Tuesday
16:25 19.10.2019(updated 17:45 19.10.2019)
US Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Ankara on Thursday, meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and hammering out a 120 hour ceasefire deal aimed at allowing Syrian Kurdish forces to retreat to a distance of about 30 km from the Syrian-Turkish border.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned that his forces would "crush the heads" of Syrian Kurdish forces if they did not complete a pullout from the border area.
"Today is the second day [of the ceasefire]. This process will end on Tuesday night. If the promises given to Turkey are not fulfilled, we will not wait, as before. We will continue the operation we started and will continue to destroy terrorists," Erdogan said, speaking at a ceremony in Kayseri, central Turkey on Saturday.
The president added that Ankara would "implement its own plans" if Ankara could not reach a solution with Russia on the Syrian forces deployed in the country's north.
Erdogan said he planned to discuss the deployment of Syrian forces in a "safe zone" in Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin next week.
"Yesterday I held talks with US President Donald Trump. On Tuesday, we will continue the dialogue with Mr. Putin. In the area where the operation is taking place, the troops of the regime [of Syrian President Bashar Assad] are under the protection of Russia. We will discuss this with Mr. Putin," Erdogan indicated.
The president added that the planned meeting with Putin would be another phrase in the creation of a security zone in Syria.
Russian peacekeeping forces began patrols in the city of Manbij, a key population centre about 25 km from the Syrian-Turkish border, earlier this week, with their deployment said to be linked to trying to prevent conflict between Syrian government forces and Turkish and Turkish proxy forces in the region. The Russian forces entered the area after the US pullout.
Last Sunday, after Turkey began a military operation in northern Syria it said was aimed at the Syrian Kurdish 'terrorists', local Kurdish forces reached an agreement with Damascus allowing Syrian Army troops to take up positions along the entirety of the Syrian-Turkish border to try to prevent a Turkish assault.
Turkey began its operation on October 9, days after the pullout of US troops from northern Syria. Unlike its US and NATO allies, which saw the Kurds as a key ally in the 2014-2017 fight against Daesh (ISIS),* Ankara classifies them as a terrorist group with links to the PKK, a Turkish Kurdish political and militia group which has waged a guerilla war against the Turkish state over the course of several decades.
Syria has decried Turkey's operations, and accused Ankara of "aggressive intentions." On Friday, President Assad called for an immediate halt to Turkish aggression in northern Syria, and demanded a full-fledged withdrawal of all foreign forces from Syria.
*A terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.
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