By Diyar Guldogan
A Turkish operation against separatist terrorism in Syria, east of the Euphrates River, is imminent, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday.
"We expressed that we will launch an operation east of the Euphrates within a matter of days to save it from a separatist terrorist organization," said Erdogan, referring to the terrorist PKK/YPG without mentioning it by name.
Speaking at a Turkish Defense Industry Summit, Erdogan added that Turkey's target in Syria has never been U.S. troops, but rather the terrorists the U.S. has been working with, against Turkey's strenuous objections.
Turkey has long criticized U.S. cooperation with its “reliable” allies the PKK/YPG against Daesh, pointing out that the YPG is the Syrian branch of the PKK, a group recognized as terrorist by Turkey, the U.S., and the EU.
Erdogan also criticized newly established U.S. observation posts along Syria’s border with Turkey, saying: "It is clear that the purpose of these U.S. observation posts is not to protect our country from terrorists but to protect terrorists from Turkey."
“Northern Syria is our southern [border],” he explained. “They are striving to form a terror corridor there. We say 'These are terrorists', and our strategic partners, particularly the U.S., say 'They are not terrorists'.
"These are branches of the PKK. The evidence is clear. Why are you working with them instead of with us?"
Erdogan said that U.S. President Donald Trump had promised to clear the region of terrorist groups within 30 days, adding: "We will see. We hope that they do it."
The president also said Turkey had recently prevented a major humanitarian crisis in Idlib, Syria.
He added: "It is time to realize our decision to wipe out terror groups east of the Euphrates."
No Daesh threat remains in Syria, he said.
"Despite everything, if we meet on the right grounds, we see the U.S. as our strategic ally that we walk into the future with together," he said.
Turkey and the U.S. should not allow their “deep” disagreements over Syria to prevent major cooperation in the future, he added.
A possible mission east of the Euphrates, which Turkey’s leadership has been suggesting for months, would follow two successful cross-border Turkish operations into Syria since 2016 – Operation Euphrates Shield and Operation Olive Branch – both meant to eradicate the presence of YPG/PKK and Daesh terrorists near Turkey’s borders.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU -- has been responsible for the deaths of some 40,000 people, including women and children. The YPG is its Syrian branch.