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Erdoğan says Turkey could launch ground operation in Syria

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said a military offensive Turkey launched against Kurdish militants in northern Syria and Iraq over the weekend should not remain limited to air strikes and that land forces should also be involved, local media outlets reported.

Turkey on Sunday carried out air strikes on the bases of Kurdish militants across northern Syria and Iraq, which it said were being used to launch “terrorist” attacks on Turkish soil. The offensive, codenamed Operation Claw-Sword, comes a week after a blast in central İstanbul killed six people and wounded 81, an attack Turkey has blamed on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Erdoğan, who spoke to reporters on his return from a trip to Qatar, said the Turkish General Staff and Defense Ministry would together decide on the involvement of ground forces.

“It is out of the question for this [operation] to remain limited to air strikes. The land forces should also be involved. The Defense Ministry and the General Staff will hold discussions on this and make a decision,” said Erdoğan.

Turkish warplanes carried out air strikes on Kurdish militant bases in Syria and Iraq on Sunday, destroying 89 targets, the Defense Ministry said.

The overnight raids in northern and northeastern Syria killed at least 31 people, according to British-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. They mainly targeted positions held by Syrian Kurdish forces.

Erdoğan also told reporters that he hadn’t talked to either US President Joe Biden or Russian President Vladimir Putin about Turkey’s plans to launch an offensive in Syria and Iraq.

The Turkish president has for several months threatened to launch an operation against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants in northern Syria.

Turkey considers the YPG to be an extension of the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.

The PKK and the YPG denied any involvement in the İstanbul bombing.

There were claims that Turkey is postponing the offensive due to objections from the US and Russia.

Erdoğan met with Biden during a G20 summit in Indonesia last week.

Turkey will hold presidential and general elections in June 2023. Erdoğan is accused by his critics of resorting to cross-border military operations in Syria and Iraq ahead of every election in order to boost nationalist sentiment in the country and get the support of nationalist voters.

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