Turkey’s defense minister says Syria’s northern city of Afrin would be handed over to a central government in Syria when a new administration has been formed following elections.
Speaking to reporters in parliament on Tuesday, Nurettin Canikli said Turkey would continue to take measures in Afrin until all terror threats in the region are eliminated.
Ankara, which has been conducting the so-called Operation Olive Branch against the US-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants in the flashpoint region since January 20, has already said the offensive could extend to Manbij and beyond.
The military intervention came after the US said it would set up a 30,000-strong militant border force at Turkey’s doorstep. Ankara is wary of the presence of Kurdish militants close to its borders in Syria, and is opposed to Washington’s efforts to train and arm them.
Ankara views the YPG as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group that has been fighting for an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly said that Afrin should be cleared of “terrorists.” He demanded the deployment of Turkish troops there during a speech back in November 2016.
This is while US officials regard the YPG as the most effective fighting force against the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in northern Syria, and have substantially increased their weaponry and technology support to the group.
The controversy over a possible Syria border force first started on January 14 when a report emerged on Reuters saying that the military coalition led by the United States in Syria was planning to set up a large border force of up to 30,000 personnel with the aid of its militia allies.
The Syrian government is against the Turkish offensive in Afrin, rejecting Ankara’s claim about having informed Damascus of the operation.