Turkey preparations for Syria offensive 'completed'

AFP , Tuesday 8 Oct 2019

Kurdish women demonstration against possible Turkish military operation
Kurdish women hold a banner with Arabic that read, "We don't accept enemies and strangers on our land," as they protest against possible Turkish military operation on their areas, at the Syrian-Turkish border, in Ras al-Ayn, Syria, Monday, Oct. 7, 2019. Syria's Kurds accused the US of turning its back on its allies and risking gains made in the fight against the Islamic State group as American troops began pulling back on Monday from positions in northeastern Syria ahead of an expected Turkish assault (AP)

Turkey's preparations for an offensive in northern Syria have been "completed", the defence ministry said Tuesday, after confusing signals from the US over whether it would allow an operation.

US President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of US troops from Turkey's border with Syria on Sunday after a phone call with his counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Turkish president has repeatedly threatened to attack Kurdish militants in northern Syria due to their ties with separatists in his own country.

"All of the preparations for an operation have been completed," the Turkish defence ministry tweeted, hours after US forces withdrew from the border area.

Erdogan had earlier said the operation could come at any moment "without warning".

Trump's move was seen by critics as an abandonment of Kurdish forces which had been the key US ally in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group.

But there was confusion later on Monday when Trump tweeted that he would "obliterate" Turkey's economy if it went too far.

Turkish Vice-President Fuat Oktay responded to Trump's threat on Tuesday, warning that "Turkey is not a country that will act according to threats".

"As our president always stresses, Turkey will always set its own path and will take matters into its own hands," Oktay said in a speech in Ankara.

Turkey says it wants a "safe zone" along northern Syria to act as a buffer against Kurdish forces and also allow the return home of up to two million Syrian refugees.

It has previously launched two cross-border offensives against IS in 2016 and the YPG in 2018, with the support of Syrian rebels.

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