Turkey will mount a military operation in northeast Syria, it said on Saturday, after accusing Washington of not doing enough to expel Syrian Kurdish fighters from its border.
The air and ground operation east of the Euphrates River in Syria could start at any time, President Tayyip Erdogan said.
The US-backed force, which controls the region, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) led by the Kurdish YPG militia, said it wanted stability but vowed to respond to any attack.
“We will not hesitate to turn any unprovoked attack by Turkey into an all-out war on the entire border to defend ourselves and our people,” SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said.
NATO allies Ankara and Washington agreed in August to set up a zone in northeast Syria along the border with Turkey, which considers the YPG a terrorist organization linked to Kurdish insurgents at home.
Turkey has accused the US, which helped the YPG defeat ISIS militants in Syria, of moving too slowly to create the zone. They are at odds over how far it should extend into Syria and who should control it.
Ankara wants the zone to stretch 30 kilometer inside Syria and to be cleared of YPG fighters. It has repeatedly warned of launching an offensive on its own into northeast Syria, where US forces are stationed alongside the SDF.
Erdogan said Turkey aimed to “water the east of Euphrates with fountains of peace” and settle refugees there.
“We gave all warnings to our interlocutors regarding the east of Euphrates and we have acted with sufficient patience,” he said at the opening of his AK Party’s annual camp.
“We’ve made our preparations, we’ve completed our operation plans, given the necessary instructions.” He added that air and ground actions could start “as soon as today or tomorrow.”
Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu Agency said late on Saturday that nine trucks loaded with armored vehicles and one bus carrying military personnel had been sent to the border district of Akcakale, located in the southeastern province of Sanliurfa.