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Defense minister signals Turkish military action in Syria

hulusi akar

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has said Turkey will take the necessary action against cross-border attacks from Syria, as the likelihood of a Turkish military operation in the neighboring country continues to grow, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

“Whatever is needed to protect and safeguard our rights and interests will be done at the right time and place under the leadership of our president. … Let no one doubt it,” Akar said in a speech on Thursday to mark the new academic year at the Milli Savunma (National Defense) University in İstanbul.

Turkey’s interior ministry announced on Sunday that two Turkish special operations police officers were killed and two others wounded in a rocket attack carried out by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria.

The ministry said the YPG militants targeted an armored vehicle carrying police officers near the town of Azaz.

Akar’s statement came a day after Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said both Russia and the US are also responsible for attacks on Turkish forces in northern Syria.

Speaking at a news conference in Ankara, Çavuşoğlu said the US and Russia had not kept their promises to ensure that the YPG withdraws from the Syrian border area.

“In the latest attacks … both Russia and the US have a responsibility since they didn’t keep their promises,” Çavuşoğlu said. “Since they are not keeping their promises, we will do what is necessary for our security,” he said, echoing remarks from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Erdoğan said following a Cabinet meeting on Monday that the attack in northern Syria was “the last straw” and that Turkey was determined to eliminate threats originating from northern Syria.

“We have no patience left with some areas that are a source of terrorist attacks aimed at our country from Syria,” Erdoğan said.

Turkey and its proxies have seized control of territory inside Syria over several military operations launched since 2016 against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group and the Kurdish YPG militia.

Ankara views the YPG as the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging a deadly war against the Turkish state that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

But Washington has partnered with the YPG to fight ISIL in Syria, brushing off angry criticism from Turkey.

The YPG remains a sore point in Erdoğan’s uneasy relations with US President Joe Biden.

Turkish forces and their local proxies seized Afrin after pushing the Syrian Kurdish forces out in March 2018.

The conflict in Syria has killed nearly 500,000 people since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression of peaceful demonstrations.

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