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Turkey's planned Syria operation 'grave concern'

Turkey's planned Syria operation 'grave concern'

Turkey will launch a new military operation in northern Syria within days, targeting Kurdish militia fighters who are supported by USA troops east of the Euphrates river, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday.

Mattis also used the informal session to announce that small units from among the estimated 2,000 US troops in Syria would move north to set up observation posts near the Turkey-Syria border.

Ankara has recently repeatedly voiced frustration about what it says are delays in the implementation of a deal with the U.S. to clear the YPG from the town of Manbij, just west of the Euphrates.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during a defence industry meeting event in Ankara, Turkey, Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018.

"This step will allow for the path to a political solution to be opened and for healthier cooperation".

"Despite that the USA has promised Turkey that they would not support PYD/YPG, the Syrian wing of the PKK, the United States did not keep its word", Erdogan said.

Ankara deems the YPG as an offshoot of the PKK, which is listed a terrorist organization by Turkey, the USA and the European Union.

In November, Turkish and U.S. troops began joint patrols in northern Syria. The US military also reportedly began regular patrols along the border with Turkey to ease Ankara's concerns over fighters and arms flowing across the border in early November.

Erdogan claimed Turkey was not being protected from terrorists but "terrorists were being protected" from possible action by Turkey.

Ankara has repeatedly lambasted Washington for providing military support to the militia and threatened to attack areas held by the YPG.

The alarming statements from Erdogan marked the latest sign of friction between the USA and Turkey, which has drawn close to Russian Federation and Iran in seeking an end to Syria's civil war.

"This is more a messaging effort to push back against the US claim that these border posts were for Turkey's protection, rather than, as is clearly the case, to protect the SDF from Turkey", he told VOA.

The YPG still controls a large swathe of northeast Syria, on Turkey's southern border.

Kurdish officials in Syria say any Turkish military action against them would affect their efforts in defeating Islamic State in its last stronghold in the country.

Erdoğan said Turkey was the victim of a "stalling tactic" over Manbij and that Islamic State no longer posed a threat in Syria.

Previous cross-border clashes caused the Syrian Democratic Forces to suspend their hard-fought offensive against the ISIS-held town of Hajin, the terror group's last remaining redoubt east of the Euphrates River. "The fact that we have deep differences in perception with the United States is no secret", he said.

Erdogan said Turkey's target has always been members of the terror group.

The U.S. makes a distinction between the PKK and YPG, however, providing military support to the latter in its fight against IS militants in Syria.

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