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Erdogan hints at military action against YPG

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during the Belt and Road Forum at the China National Convention Center (CNCC) in Beijing, in this photo taken on May 14, 2017. (AP)
ISTANBUL: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hinted at possible retaliation against the Syrian-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in a speech to Turkish business group TUSIAD on Thursday,.
Ankara considers the YPG a terrorist organization affiliated to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging a bloody decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.
Erdogan said during his meeting with US President Donald Trump at the White House, he notified him that Turkey would “exercise its rights under the rules of engagement” without consulting anyone.
“We are facing a picture where terrorist organizations are constantly supported, strengthened and are confronting us. Turkey is not a country that will consent to such treatment,” Erdogan said.
Turkey refuses to take part in the anti-Daesh coalition’s impending Raqqa operation if the YPG participates.
The US considers the group a reliable and strong partner on the ground in its anti-Daesh efforts.
Last year, Turkey carried out Operation Euphrates Shield in northern Syria against Daesh and the YPG. Erdogan said Turkey would not hesitate to conduct similar operations when necessary.
Galip Dalay, senior associate fellow on Turkey and Kurdish affairs at Al-Jazeera Center for Studies, and research director at Al-Sharq Forum, told Arab News that if Erdogan carries out this threat, it will likely undermine the stability of the Raqqa operation.
But Dalay said he does not expect a sustained military operation similar to Euphrates Shield to be undertaken in other parts of Syria.
“The conditions aren’t in place for such an operation. We might witness some short-lived cross-border firing or operations. The symbolic significance will be higher than the real military or geopolitical impact,” Dalay said.
Dalay added that the US will try its best to defuse tensions between the YPG and Turkey.
“I don’t think we’ll witness the kind of fighting between Turkey and the YPG that occurred between Turkey and Daesh during Operation Euphrates Shield, because any clash with the YPG would lead to full-fledged battles on many fronts such as Turkey, Syria and Iraq,” Dalay said.
“I sensed some toning down in Erdogan’s discourse on the YPG when he said Turkey will react if the YPG targets Turkey,” Dalay added. “That means a reactive response rather than a proactive assault on the YPG.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the US provided Turkey with guarantees that heavy weapons given to the YPG will only be used to liberate Raqqa from Daesh, not against Turkey under any circumstances.
Experts expect military action in Shingal, a PKK-occupied town in northern Iraq near the Turkish border.
Last month, Turkish warplanes carried out a wave of airstrikes against Kurdish positions in Iraq and northern Syria.
The YPG in Syria and the Peshmerga in Iraq, which are part of the anti-Daesh coalition, said their forces were targeted in the strikes.
“Such an operation (in Shingal) will probably have the blessing of the US and the KDP (Kurdish Democratic Party), maybe not that overtly,” Dalay said.

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