Turkey’s new military operation in northern Syria is already underway, left-wing daily BirGün quoted Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar as saying on Monday.
“The operation is already happening, it will happen anyway,” Akar told journalists after a cabinet meeting. “Everything has a time and a place. It has tactics, technique, engineering, mathematics.”
The minister was referring to Turkey’s plans to launch a new incursion into areas of northern Syria controlled by Kurdish-led organisations which Ankara defines as terrorist groups.
During the last operation in 2019, Turkish forces captured large areas of the mainly Kurdish north of Syria before signing agreements with Russia and the United States to stop the fighting.
However, this year Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has declared his intention to launch a new offensive, and areas under the control of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have faced frequent drone strikes and artillery bombardment in recent months.
Akar said it was Turkey’s natural right to conduct cross-border military operations for its security.
“Whatever is necessary in this regard, we have done so far, and we will do it in the future,” he said. “Whatever intervention is required, it will be done when the time and place comes, no matter who is behind the terrorist organisations.”
The minister said that a possible meeting between the Turkish and Syrian presidents after 11 years of cut ties would depend on the conditions and the situation.
Meanwhile, the United States on Monday voiced concern over the attacks along Syria’s northern border, without naming Turkey as the aggressor.
US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that Washington was “deeply concerned” about the recent attacks in northern Syria, and particularly its impact on the civilian population there and urged all parties to maintain ceasefire lines.
“We deplore the civilian casualties in Al-Bab, Hasakah, and elsewhere,” he added. “We remain committed to our efforts to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS and a political resolution to the Syrian conflict.”
Turkey has increased the frequency of artillery shelling and drone strikes in the region since Erdoğan met the Iranian and Russian leaders at the Tehran Summit, even though the Turkish president failed to obtain a green-light from his counterparts to launch the planned invasion.
Erdoğan’s multiple threats this year to order new military offensives in Syria aim to extend the 30-km deep “safe zones,” or occupied areas that Turkish forces carved out during previous operations.