Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned on Tuesday that his country would pay a “higher price” if it did not do what is necessary in northern Syria today.
Over the weekend, he had vowed to carry out a military operation in a Kurdish-controlled area east of the Euphrates. Turkey has undertaken two previous military operations in northern Syria.
In a speech to Turkish ambassadors in Ankara, Erdogan said that this “process would, God willing, very soon be taken to a new stage.”
Earlier, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper warned Turkey that Washington would prevent unilateral incursions into northern Syria against Kurdish forces.
“Clearly we believe any unilateral action by them (Turkey) would be unacceptable,” he said.
“What we’re going to do is prevent unilateral incursions that would upset, again, these mutual interests… the United States, Turkey and the SDF share with regard to northern Syria,” Esper said.
The SDF stands for the Syrian Democratic Forces. With US backing, the SDF, which includes the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), have taken control over the last four years of much of northeastern Syria from ISIS. Ankara sees the YPG as a terrorist organization.
Separately, Erdogan said he believes US President Donald Trump will not allow ties between the two NATO allies to become captive to a dispute over Ankara’s purchase of a Russian S-400 defense system.
Ankara and Washington have been at loggerheads over Turkey’s purchase of the S-400s systems, which the United States says are not compatible with NATO defenses and pose a threat to its Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter jets.
Last month, Turkey received the first shipment of the S-400s and said a second shipment would arrive in Ankara next year. The move prompted Washington to begin formally removing Ankara from an F-35 program in which Turkey was both customer and producer.
Washington warned that Turkey will face US sanctions over the S-400s, but Ankara has so far dismissed the warnings and instead put its hopes on sympathetic remarks from Trump at a G20 summit in June. Trump however has not ruled out sanctions.
“There is no concrete evidence showing the S-400s will harm the F-35s or NATO, nobody should deceive each other. Many NATO member states have purchased from Russia. We don’t see this being turned into a crisis,” Erdogan said.
“Turkey made a business decision for its security and what pushed Turkey to do this was the uncompromising stance of its allies. Trump’s statement at the G20 that Turkey was treated unfairly is the confirmation of this fact at the highest level,” he added.
“I believe Trump won’t allow Turkish-US relations to become captive of the S-400 issue.”
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