A ground operation against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia is still on the cards, the Turkish defense minister has said
Ankara has been holding talks with Moscow on using Syria’s airspace in a possible cross-border military operation against the Kurdish YPG militia, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Saturday, as quoted by media.
“We are in talks with Russia about all issues including opening the airspace,” Akar told journalists. He admitted, though, that the Turkish authorities haven’t yet received a “clear and definitive answer” on the matter, the Hürriyet daily reported.
He was commenting on whether Ankara was still considering an incursion in the area held by the YPG in northern Syria, and if Moscow would open the airspace for an operation against the Kurdish group, which Türkiye considers to be a terrorist organization.
“We have done and are doing everything we need to protect our borders and ensure the security of our people and our nation. No one should expect Türkiye to hold back on this,” Akar said.
In November, Ankara launched a cross-border aerial campaign, Operation Claw Sword, after a deadly bombing terrorist attack in central Istanbul, which it blamed on “PKK/YPG terrorists.”
The PKK is a Turkish-based Kurdish militant force that has fought a decades-long guerrilla war against the government. The YPG is a Kurdish militia based in Syria. Both groups have denied any involvement in the attack, which killed six people and injured more than 80 others.
As part of the operation, Turkish warplanes carried out a series of strikes destroying multiple targets in Syria and Iraq, which were reportedly linked to the PKK and the YPG. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that the air campaign was “just the beginning” and his country may soon launch a ground offensive into Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria.
The Russian president’s special envoy on Syria, Alexander Lavrentyev, urged Ankara to “show restraint in order to prevent an escalation of tensions” in the country. Lavrentyev stressed the importance of finding a peaceful solution to the “Kurdish issue,” adding that Russia, which has been helping Syria fight terrorism since 2015, was ready to work with all the interested parties.