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Turkey's Erdogan threatens to expand Syria border offensive


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to clear his countrys Syrian border of "terrorists" up to Iraq, expanding a current operation. Such a move would further risk alienating Turkeys allies, the US included.

Turkey could expand its offensive against the Afrin region in Syria to other cities in the northwest of the country in a bid to rid the area of a Syrian Kurdish militia Ankara views as a terrorist group, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday. Such a move would aggravate already fraught tensions with some of Turkeys allies, notably the United States, which has been backing the Syrian Kurdish YPG in its fight against "Islamic State " extremists. 

The current situation 

-  Turkey is carrying out an air and ground assault against Kurdish forces in Afrin dubbed "Operation Olive Branch." 

- Ankara says the operation is aimed at ridding the Turkish border to Syria of Kurdish militants it considers to be allied with the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), which is waging an insurgency in Turkey. 

- The offensive has caused diplomatic tensions between NATO allies Turkey and the US, which has been supporting the Kurdish Peoples Protection Units (YPG) militia in northern Syria. 

- If the offensive is expanded eastward to the city of Manbij, as threatened by Erdogan, it could endanger US soldiers positioned there alongside YPG fighters. 

We will continue our fight 

Erdogan said on Friday that Turkey would continue its offensive "until there is no terrorist on our border leading to Iraq." He added that after concluding the operation in Afrin, Turkish forces would continue to the east to "clean up" the city of Manbij, which is also held by the YPG. Jeopardizing Syrian peace efforts: Turkeys Afrin offensive has raised concerns not only in Washington, but also in Germany and the EU, with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini saying this week that the operation could "undermine seriously the resumption of [UN-backed] talks in Geneva, which is what we believe could really bring sustainable peace and security for Syria." 

tj/rc (Reuters, AFP)

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