Turkey to launch Syrian offensive east of Euphrates, defense minister says

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Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar. AFP PHOTOS

Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has announced that the Turkish army’s next offensive following its “liberation” of the northern Syrian city of Manbij will be in an area to the east of the Euphrates River, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Tuesday.

Speaking at the 38th meeting of the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges’ (TOBB) Turkish Defense Industry Council in central Kırıkkale province, Akar said Turkey could not be insensitive to problems close to its borders.

Recalling a Sept. 17 deal on Syria’s Idlib province, signed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, Akar said, “As a result of this, radicals and weapons in a 15 to 20 kilometer corridor were removed.”

Ankara and Moscow also signed a memorandum of understanding calling for the “stabilization” of Idlib’s de-escalation zone, in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

Under the deal, opposition groups in Idlib will remain in areas in which they are already present, while Russia and Turkey will conduct joint patrols in the area with a view to preventing renewed fighting.

“There will be [Turkish-Russian] joint patrols. So, an environment of peace will be established and 3.5 million people will be able to live there,” he said.

On the Manbij deal between Ankara and Washington, Akar said separate patrols were to be conducted until October.

“Then, there was a training process. It has been completed now, and joint patrols will start any time,” he added.

He went on to say that the next steps would be the withdrawal of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia, a Kurdish armed group that controls some of the northern parts of Syria, and heavy weapons from Manbij, and returning its administration to its residents.

The Manbij deal between Turkey and the US focuses on the withdrawal of the YPG from the city to stabilize the area, situated in northeastern Aleppo province.

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