Turkey has reached the final stage of preparations for new military operations in neighboring Syria, the country’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday.
“We are at the last stage of preparations to increase the number of regions in Syria where we provide stability through the ‘Euphrates Shield’ and ‘Olive Branch’ operations. With the help of God, we will liberate new territories in the near future and bring security there,” Erdogan was quoted as saying by local news agency Anadolu.
The President pointed out that 250,000 people have returned to the regions where Turkey has carried out military operations in northern Syria.
Turkish troops, in cooperation with jihadist groups loyal to Ankara, have waged a number of military operations in Syria, mainly against Kurdish militants such as the ‘Olive Branch’ operation in Afrin in northwest Syria and “Euphrates Shield”.
Damascus condemns Ankara’s military operations, arguing that they violate Syrian sovereignty and have aided certain terrorist groups afflicting the war-torn country.
Ankara considers the Kurdish militant group, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a terrorist organization, as it is the Syrian branch of the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that seek for the Kurdish-majority regions of Turkey to be part of an independent Kurdish state.
Turkish military operations, backed by Syrian jihadist groups, have engaged in operations to take land from the YPG. This has been a major cause of tension between Ankara and Washington, as the US recognizes the PKK as a terrorist organization but has nonetheless backed and supported the YPG in partitioning Syria.
The announcement of a new military operation comes as the Turkish currency, the lira, is tumbling to all new lows in the wake of punitive US tariffs, devastating the Turkish economy.
The military option against the YPG can be seen a way for Erdogan to keep the Turkish people united against a ‘common enemy’ in order to prevent political cleavages from emerging at a critical time when the Turkish economy is being directly attacked by Washington. Ankara is facing the dilemma of juggling its crisis-ridden relationship with the US and NATO and the growing necessity of linking up with new partners such as Russia and Iran.