Mon, 30 Jan 2023

© Provided by Xinhua

by Burak Akinci

ANKARA, Nov. 26 (Xinhua) -- Despite warnings from Russia and the United States, Türkiye seems intent on fulfilling its threat to launch a new land offensive in northern Syria against the Kurdish militants whom it accused of carrying out a deadly explosion in Istanbul, experts said.

In a parliament speech on Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country's determination to secure its border with Syria and establish a security corridor was "stronger than ever before".

"We are continuing the aerial operation and will strike the terrorists from land at the most convenient time for us," he warned.

In retaliation to a bomb attack on Nov. 13 that killed six and wounded scores of passersby in Istiklal Avenue, one of Istanbul's busiest touristic areas, Turkish F-16 fighters struck suspected Kurdish militant targets in northern Syria and Iraq.

© Provided by Xinhua

Ankara has blamed the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK), blacklisted as a terror group by the European Union and the United States, as well as its alleged Syrian affiliates, the People's Protection Units (YPG), for the attack.

Both groups have reportedly denied responsibility.

According to Oytun Orhan, the coordinator for Levant Studies at Ankara's Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies, Ankara's patience with Kurdish militants in Syria is running thin since this summer when it warned of a new offensive.

"A new ground offensive into areas of the Syrian-Turkish border is being planned for months since June, and such an operation may happen soon," he told Xinhua.

"Türkiye is convinced that Kurdish militants are responsible for the Istanbul explosion and wants to punish them for this deadly attack. Türkiye is quite serious about the attack," Orhan added.

The Turkish army has launched four large-scale operations in northern Syria since 2016. The most recent operation was launched in 2020.

Meanwhile, important international players in the area have called for restraint.

Russia, a military ally of the Syrian government, has warned Türkiye that a full-scale ground offensive could trigger an escalation of violence.

The United States, Türkiye's NATO ally, also warned that an escalation could undermine the fight against the Islamic State (IS) in Syria.

The YPG, considered by Ankara as a terrorist organization, is Washington's main Syrian ally in defeating the IS.

Ankara and Washington have long been at odds over their differences regarding the Syrian crisis.

Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said that Washington may this time be more lenient to a Turkish ground operation.

"The U.S. will restrain itself regarding a Turkish incursion into Syria until Ankara ratifies NATO's Nordic expansion, which will happen in the spring and just before Turkish (presidential and parliamentary) elections," he told Xinhua.

© Provided by Xinhua

Sweden and Finland were invited to join NATO after Russia launched special military operation in Ukraine. All the military alliance's member nations have ratified the two Nordic countries' applications, except for Türkiye and Hungary.

Ankara has been complaining that the two countries moved slowly in fulfilling their commitments over Turkish security concerns, which are the deportation and extradition of members and associates of the PKK and the Gulen Movement, both deemed terrorist organizations by Türkiye.

"With the U.S. on board, once Ankara aligns itself with Russia, a Turkish incursion into Syria is likely," Cagaptay said.

Moscow could consent in the coming weeks to a fresh Turkish offensive if Erdogan seriously pursues a reconciliation with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad to end the war in Syria, he added.

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