Operation Olive Branch: Turkey's incursion into Syria explained

by Garry Watts January 26, 2018, 1:34
Operation Olive Branch: Turkey's incursion into Syria explained

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's comments on January 24 came after a telephone call with U.S. President Donald Trump, who urged the Turkish leader to "avoid any actions that might risk conflict between Turkish and American forces".

Amid rising tensions, Trump urged Turkey to "exercise caution and to avoid any actions that might risk conflict between Turkish and American forces".

Meanwhile, the Kremlin announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have discussed Ankara's operations in Syria via a phone call.

Burak Bilgehan Ozpek, a Middle East expert from TOBB University of Economics and Technology in Ankara, said Washington's latest moves to appease Turkey are part of a broader Western strategy to attempt to persuade Turkey not to expand its Afrin operation to Manbij, as Erdogan as threatened.

Discussions also continued between Rex Tillerson and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu around the idea of a security zone being established.

Turkey's ground assault against an American-backed Kurdish militia in northern Syria threatens a further deterioration in relations with the United States, a key North Atlantic Treaty Organisation partner, according to several regional experts.

The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey's rights within worldwide law, U.N. Security Council resolutions, its right to self-defense under the U.N. charter and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said. Whereas Turkey and Damascus as well as the opposition forces all support the territorial integrity of Syria within its current borders.

Others say the operation aims to oust a militia of between 8,000 to 10,000 fighters affiliated with the People's Protection Units or YPG, a Syrian Kurdish group that has controlled territory in northern Syria and a proven top USA ally in fighting the Islamic State group.

Ankara has been infuriated by US support for the YPG, which it sees as a domestic security threat, one of several issues that have brought relations between the United States and its Muslim NATO ally close to breaking point.

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The Turkish military said in a statement it had killed 303 militants in northern Syria since the operation started. Ankara views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdish insurgency in Turkey.

Some Turkish officials have said the main aim is the creation of a 30-kilometer (20-mile) deep "secure zone" in Afrin, which Turkey says is essential for its security.

Turkey has protested Washington's assistance to the Kurds, and the official said Trump told Erdogan in the call that "his country no longer supplied the group.and pledged not to resume" such assistance to them.

U.S. -Turkey relations have been strained in recent months over several issues.

Ties between the two countries soured in 2016, due to restrictions imposed by Austrian authorities on Turkish politicians who wanted to campaign in the country ahead of a key referendum in Turkey.

"Starting with Manbij, we will destroy this game along our borders and completely cleanse our region of this mischief", Erdogan said, vowing to "exterminate the terrorists".

The official US presence in Syria numbers around 5,000.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group that monitors the civil war, reported airstrikes in almost 20 villages.


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