Erdogan Pledges to Clear Turkey-Syria Border of 'Terrorist' Kurds

The Syrian Kurds are backed by the U.S. in fighting ISIS, but seen by Turkey as an extension of its internal Kurdish insurgency

The Associated Press
The Associated Press
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on December 15, 2017 in Istanbul.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on December 15, 2017 in Istanbul.Credit: Ozan Kose / AFP
The Associated Press
The Associated Press

Turkey's president has slammed a U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militant group and says he'll clear his country's border of "terrorists."

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday his country would not allow "terror nests" near its border, referring to areas held by the People's Protection Units or YPG in northern Syria.

Turkey considers the YPG an extension of a Kurdish insurgency within its borders, and launched an operation in August 2016 to clear part of its border of them and the Islamic State group.

Erdogan announced an expanded list of areas to be cleared. "We will clean Afrin of terrorists, we will clean Manbij of terrorists. We will clean Tel Abyad, Ras al-Ayn and Qamishli of terrorists," he said.

Turkey has a military presence in the western Syrian province of Idlib as part of a de-escalation agreement struck with Russia and Iran. The province borders YPG-controlled Afrin and Turkey has threatened to attack the group there.

Erdogan has frequently expressed frustration with the Syrian Kurdish militant group's presence at Turkey's border. But it's rare that he mentions Qamishli, a town further east controlled by both the Syrian Kurds and Syrian President Bashar Assad's government.

Turkish officials regularly criticize the U.S. for backing Syrian Kurds in combatting the Islamic State.

Last month, Turkey's foreign minister said U.S. President Donald Trump promised to stop arming the militant group but the Pentagon said it was reviewing the process, stopping short of announcing a halt to weapons transfers.

Erdogan chided the NATO member's allies, saying they "will really be our allies when they stop working with structures we consider terror organizations in Syria."

Click the alert icon to follow topics: