By Diyar Guldogan
Turkey will launch a counter-terrorist military operation in Syria, east of the Euphrates River, at any time now, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday.
"We can start our operation any moment now in Syrian territory at any place, especially along the 500-kilometer border, without harming U.S. soldiers," Erdogan told an opening ceremony in the central Konya province.
Erdogan said the army has completed preparations for the planned operation, adding that Turkey will do "what is necessary" to foil terror corridors east of the Euphrates River.
"We spoke to [U.S. President Donald] Trump. These terrorists have to leave areas east of the Euphrates. If they do not leave, we will dispatch them. Because they are disturbing us," he added.
Erdogan reiterated that Turkey will not allow a terror corridor along its borders.
"I’m not just saying this ... Now it’s time for the area east of the Euphrates. Listen, those who are protecting terrorists in the region: You're making a mistake. Let's give up [protecting them]," the president warned.
Erdogan said Turkey's fight against terrorism in Syria will continue until fresh elections are held and a comprehensive political solution is reached in the country.
A 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 -- Operations Euphrates Shield and 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.
Against Turkey's objections, the U.S. has worked with the PKK/YPG, calling them "allies" in fighting Daesh, but ignoring their terrorist status.
The U.S. has expressed concerns about the safety of its soldiers in a possible Turkish operation, but Erdogan and U.S. President Donald Trump last week spoke about Syria, in the runup to the operation.