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Turkey’s ground offensive in northern Syria could start ‘at any time’: Erdoğan spokesman

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s spokesman has said that Turkey’s ground offensive in northern Syria could take place “tomorrow, next week or at any time,” local media reported on Tuesday.

Ankara last week said it was more determined than ever to secure its Syrian border from attacks by Kurdish forces, following a blast in central İstanbul that killed six people and wounded 81 on Nov. 13, threatening a ground operation “at the most convenient time.”

Turkey has blamed the attack on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), but the outlawed group has denied any involvement.

Designated as a terrorist group by Turkey and much of the international community, the PKK has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

When asked about the timeline of the possible ground offensive in northern Syria, spokesperson İbrahim Kalın told the pro-government A Haber news that it could start “tomorrow, next week or at any time.”

Turkey announced on Nov. 20 it had carried out airstrikes on semi-autonomous Kurdish zones in northern and northeastern Syria, and across the border in Iraq as part of an offensive codenamed Operation Claw-Sword.

The Turkish raids have killed at least 63 Kurdish and allied fighters and Syrian regime soldiers as well as a Kurdish journalist, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on an extensive network of sources in Syria.

Eight people have been killed in retaliatory artillery fire, three of them across the Turkish border.

Mithat Sancar, co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), commented on Turkey’s possible ground offensive targeting Kurdish forces in Syria during his party’s group meeting on Tuesday.

He said while Turks have a hard time making ends meet due to the country’s deteriorating economy, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), choose to pursue such a policy to secure their political power in the elections slated for June of next year.

“Turkey has two [sets of] main agendas, one of which is poverty, misery, hunger, unemployment, tyranny [and] oppression. … The agenda of the government is policies aimed at suppressing the people’s real agenda and making them forget it. War plans are at the forefront of these policies,” Sancar said.

He added that once they were able to implement that policy, they could achieve some of the results they want, such as dividing the society.

Sancar urged voters and opposition politicians not to “fall for the games” of the AKP-MHP alliance so as to prevent them from achieving their goals.

Critics have also accused Erdoğan of trying to increase nationalist sentiment in the country in order to get more votes in next year’s elections at a time when the people are suffering financially due to record inflation of more than 85 percent and declining support for Erdoğan.

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