ANKARA – Turkey’s top diplomat Monday warned that Ankara could launch further action against Kurdish forces in northern Syria unless the U.S. and Russia fulfill their promises to ensure the militia fighters leave the border region.
“Have they completely fulfilled what is required of the agreements? No they have not, but they should do so,” Mevlut Cavusoglu said, quoted by state news agency Anadolu.
Last month Turkey began a cross-border offensive against a Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, viewed as terrorists by Ankara but which spearheaded the fight against the Islamic State extremist group with U.S. support.
Following Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s meetings with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Russia and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in Ankara last month, there were two respective agreements for the YPG’s withdrawal from northern Syria.
“We have done what is required as part of the agreement but when there has been harassment (from the YPG), we have done what is necessary,” the foreign minister told a parliamentary committee.
“If we don’t get the desired outcome, we will do what is required as we have done before,” Cavusoglu added.
“There is no other option. We must clear the terror threat next door to us.”
Cavusoglu was referring to previous efforts by Turkish and American officials to ensure the People’s Protection Units (YPG) withdrawal from northeastern Syria after repeated threats by Erdogan to launch an assault since 2018.
Ankara says the YPG is a “terrorist” offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.
After the operation began, the international community was quick to condemn Ankara, with the West fearing the impact on the fight against IS.
Ankara insisted that it will ensure IS does not return in any shape or form.
Cavusoglu also said Turkey had previously captured Ismail Alwan Salman al-Ithawi, an aide of slain IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and handed him over to Iraqi authorities.
“We caught him and we handed him over to Iraq, and he showed where Baghdadi was. He showed where he was hiding,” Cavusoglu said.
Baghdadi was killed in a U.S. special forces raid in Syria last month.
Ithawi was caught in Turkey and returned to Iraq in February 2018.