‘Turkey preparing for new military operations in Syria’

Turkey's President speaks at a public rally in Trabzon, 3 April 2017, (Photo: AA)

Turkey is preparing for new military operations in Syria and other regions, the country’s president said on Monday.

Speaking during a rally in the Black Sea province of Trabzon, President Erdogan said, “The first phase of the Operation Euphrates Shield ended after Syria’s al-Bab was cleared of terrorists. Now we are preparing for new operations against terrorist groups in other regions.”

The president added that the new operations would have different names and promised surprises “for all groups including the PKK/PYD, Daesh [Islamic State] and FETO [Gulen Movement.”

“God willing, the following months will be the spring of Turkey and Turkish people, and the deadly winter of terrorists,” he said.

Turkey’s Defence Minister Fikri Isik had also stated on Friday that threats from Syria were not over and they would conduct operations if necessary.

Ankara has recently been threatening a cross border operation into the Kurdish region in Iraq and the Yazidi homeland of Sinjar, where there has been Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) presence since IS attacked the area in 2014.

FSA: We will participate in Raqqa operation

A commander of the Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army, Haytham al-Afisi, claimed that the group would participate in an operation to capture IS stronghold Raqqa from the jihadist group.

Raqqa is currently encircled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a majority Kurdish-Arab coalition that Ankara views as a “terrorist organisation.” Turkish officials claim the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), a leading component of the SDF, is affiliated to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group fighting Ankara for autonomy.

According to YPG sources the final phase of the operation to storm Raqqa is expected to start in the next 10 days. However the US-led coalition has not confirmed a start date.

Aaron Stein: Turkey has few options in Syria

Commentators had evaluated the end of Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield last week as the final failure in the country’s Syria incursion.

Writing in the Atlantic Council, analyst Aaron Stein said Turkey had sought to use its presence in Syria to empower itself by using Moscow to signal to the US that it has options beyond the US-Turkish alliance and NATO.

“The events in Syria clearly contradict this. Russia is not an ally of Turkey. Instead, Russia is using all the means at its disposal to shape the opposition to serves its end goals of a negotiated settlement on its own terms—goals at odds with Turkish interests. Turkey has few options to alter this dynamic, especially since the United States is pushing ahead with its preferred partner in northeastern Syria, the SDF. Turkey has even fewer options to stop the trajectory of these two larger powers.”