Erdoğan threatens new Syria offensive, vows to never to talk to Greek PM again

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday threatened to launch a new military operation in Syria as part of an effort to secure his country’s southern border.

 The goal of the offensive would be the resumption of Turkish efforts to create a 30-kilometer (20 mile) safe zone along the country’s border with neighbouring Syria, state-run Anadolu news agency cited the Turkish leader as saying following a cabinet meeting.

Since August 2016, Turkey has launched three military operations in northern Syria directed at the Islamic State group and Kurdish militia group, the People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Turkey sees the YPG as an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has fought for Kurdish autonomous rights in Turkey for almost four decades. The PKK is designated as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

Erdoğan stopped short of sharing further details on Monday, but said the operation would begin after Turkish military, intelligence and security forces complete their preparations.

"We will make our decisions following a National Security Council meeting set to take place on Thursday,’’ Erdoğan said.

The Turkish leader on Monday also said that Kyriakos Mitsotakis "no longer exists" to him following the Greek prime minister’s visit to the United States. Erdoğan accused the Greek leader of trying to block sales of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey.

"We had agreed to not include third countries in our dispute with him. Despite this, last week, he had a visit to the US and talked at the Congress and warned them not to give F-16s to us," Anadolu cited Erdoğan as saying.

"He longer exists for me. I will never agree to meet with him. We will continue our way with honourable politicians," the Turkish leader said.

NATO members Greece and Turkey remain at odds over a string of  issues such as maritime rights, airspace, and ethnically split Cyprus. Diplomatic relations between the countries reached the lowest point in decades in 2020 after Turkey sent seismic research vessel into waters claimed by Greece to search for natural gas. 

Mitsotakis during a visiting to Washington last week, where he met U.S. President Joe Biden and senior U.S. officials, confirmed its intention to purchase a squadron of F-35 stealth fighter jets from the United States, Reuters reported. He also expressed concern over Turkey’s attempts to upgrade its F-16 fleet, accusing Ankara of endangering security in the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey was removed as a partner from the F-35 fighter jet programme in 2019 over its purchase of Russian-made S-400 missile defence systems, which Washington maintains are incompatible with NATO weapons and pose a security risk. 

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