US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has expressed concern about the Turkish-Syrian conflict during a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, warning that "any new offensive would undermine regional stability and give malign actors the ability to exploit instability".
The remarks follow statements by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in which he again threatened to launch an operation against Kurdish PKK fighters. The aim would be to secure a 30-kilometre separation to his country's border with Syria. During the same speech, the Ankara-based government stressed that it is not waiting for "permission" from Washington to begin its operation.
According to Bloomberg news agency and reported by the daily Al Arabiya, Erdogan said that 'Turkey will clear Tal Rifaat and Manbij of terrorists', adding that 'we are moving towards a new stage in the process of establishing a 30-kilometre safe zone on our southern border. We will do it by clearing Manbij and Tal Rifaat', and added a promise to work 'step by step' in other regions.
For several weeks now, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been threatening to launch an operation against Kurdish fighters in the Kurdistan Workers' Party, which is designated as a terrorist organisation by the Turkish government and its allies. He also points to the PKK-allied People's Protection Units (YPG), which were supported by the US and the coalition of Western countries against Daesh.
This new threat from Turkey could come on top of recent offensives against the Kurds in Iraq. On 18 April, Ankara launched an attack against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Turkey launched an air and ground offensive against the Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, according to Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, during the operation commando units, drones and helicopters attacked PKK hideouts in three regions near the border. According to the minister, the aim of the mission was to disrupt a major PKK attack on Turkey, adding that a large number of "terrorists" were "neutralised" as a result of the operation.
Erdogan's country regularly launches operations against PKK positions, which they consider to be terrorists and which have training camps in the Sinjar region and the mountainous areas of Iraqi Kurdistan.
Over the past year Turkey has carried out several attacks on Kurdish fighters in Iraq and Syria. In February, Erdogan's jets attacked Kurdish militia targets including training camps, shelters and ammunition storage areas, according to the Turkish Defence Ministry, as reported by Euronews on 2 February. "Only terrorists and targets belonging to terrorists were attacked. The terrorists' shelters, bunkers, barracks and caves were shot down. The terrorists have once again felt the breath of the Turkish armed forces on their necks," said Hulusi Akar.
The Iraqi army condemned the attack inside its airspace as a violation of its sovereignty. The planes were intended to bomb areas of Derik, Sincar and Karacak and return to their bases. Neither the army nor the government provided information on the number of victims of the attacks.
America Coordinator: José Antonio Sierra.