Turkey seeks to avoid any clash with Syrian, Russian or U.S. forces during its operation in northern Syria but will take whatever steps it needs for its security, Turkey’s foreign minister was quoted as saying on Tuesday.
The United States and Russia have both urged Turkey to show restraint in its military campaign, Operation Olive Branch, to crush Kurdish YPG control over the Afrin district on its southern border. Syria has condemned the incursion.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who says the YPG is an extension of a Kurdish group waging a decades-long insurgency inside Turkey’s borders, has also pledged to drive Kurdish fighters out of the mainly Arab town of Manbij.
Manbij, to the east of the Afrin region, is part of a far larger area of northern Syria controlled by mainly Kurdish forces. Any attack there would raise the prospect of protracted conflict between Turkey and allied Free Syrian Army factions against the U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters.
“Terrorists in Manbij are constantly firing provocation shots. If the United States doesn’t stop this, we will stop it,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was quoted as saying on Tuesday.
“Our goal is not to clash with Russians, the Syrian regime or the United States, it is to battle the terrorist organisation,” broadcaster Haberturk quoted him as saying.