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Turkey to Launch Offensive in Kurdish-controlled Area of Northern Syria

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Ankara would launch an offensive in a Kurdish-controlled area in northern Syria in a bid to expel fighters it considers terrorists. Erdogan added that both Russia – the major power broker in Syria – and the United States – which backs the predominantly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – had been informed of the planned military operation. No further details were provided. Prior to Erdogan’s comments, the SDF issued a statement denouncing the prospective Turkish move and calling on the international community to intervene. Ankara had initially agreed to forgo the offensive after forging a deal with the US to create a safe zone along Syria’s northeastern border with Turkey. That pact would have cleared the area of Kurdish YPG fighters – which make up the bulk of the SDF – whom Ankara views as an extension of the banned PKK, which has waged a four-decades-long violent campaign to gain autonomy in Turkey. However, the Turkish government has accused Washington of ignoring its demand to sever ties with YPG units, which played an instrumental role on the ground in the US-led effort to defeat the Islamic State.