Ankara launches another military operation in Syria?
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that Ankara will carry out a military operation in a Kurdish-controlled area east of the Euphrates in northern Syria.
Erdogan noted both Russia and the United States have been told of the planned operation, but did not say when it would begin. "We entered Afrin, Jarablus, and Al-Bab. Now we will enter the east of the Euphrates," Reuters cited Erdogan as saying.
Turkey had in the past warned of carrying out military operations east of the river, but put them on hold after agreeing with the United States to create a safe zone inside Syria’s northeastern border with Turkey that would be cleared of the Kurdish YPG militia.
But Ankara has accused Washington of stalling progress on setting up the safe zone and has demanded it sever its relations with the YPG. The group was Washington’s main ally on the ground in Syria during the battle against Islamic State, but Turkey sees it as a terrorist organization.
At the same time, U.S. Department of State spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus warned Turkey against any military action in northeastern Syria. According to her, such actions, particularly as U.S. personnel may be present or in the vicinity, is of grave concern.
The deputy head of the Council of the Russian Diplomats Association, Andrey Baklanov, speaking with the correspondent of Vestnik Kavkaza, in the first place noted that it's not yet clear whether real military action will be launched, or is it just another Turkey's statement of intent.
"According to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey wants to establish a 150km-corridor on its borders to ensure the invulnerability of the country. We proceed from the fact that the parties should show mutual restraint," Andrei Baklanov noted.
At the same time, he focused on the fact that the Russian side equally calls on the United States and Turkey not to create additional difficulties in the Syrian settlement. "Our point of view is constant, it does not change," the deputy head of the Council of the Russian Diplomats Association said.
In addition, he stressed that in this matter it is necessary to ensure that the blood does not spill, but some other measures are taken. "That’s what we did when everyone was asking when the attack on Syria would begin because of the chemical facilities allegedly located on its territory. In the end, our point of view led to de-escalation. Now we are working in the same direction," Andrey Baklanov concluded.
The head of the Center for Modern Turkish Studies, Yuri Mavashev, in turn, said that what is happening is linked to the supply of Russia's S-400 air defense systems to Turkey. "This is a kind of signal that the Turkish side wanted to send, bearing in mind that now Turkey’s airspace is covered," he said.
Mavashev also drew attention to the fact that the decision to start the next military operation in Syria has important domestic political significance for Erdogan. "It is very important for the Turkish President and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) to regain the loss of a significant part of the country as a result of local elections. And among other things it can be done by starting a military operation," the expert continued.
He also said that this time the operation in Syria will take place, Ankara will no longer postpone it. "Now all the factors have converged - interaction with Russia, interaction with the United States, the S-400 air defense system situation," Mavashev suggested.
According to the expert, Erdogan hoped that the United States would offer him some advantageous option in northern Syria as a result of the tense S-400 situation, but it did not happen. "It’s clear that Trump knew about Turkey’s plans in advance. Because the Trump administration is more loyal to Turkey than Congress," the expert concluded.