Speaking in an interview with France 24, in which Turkish president Recep Erdogan lashed out at Germany for not allowing him to address the Turkish community there and preventing him from bringing his bodyguards to the upcoming G20 meeting in Hamburg, Erdogan warned that Turkey is ready to intervene militarily in north Syria to repel Syrian Kurdish forces there, forces which recall are armed and supported by the US but are seen as a terrorist organisation by Turkey. He also said that to avoid military intervention, a de-escalation zone could soon be established by Turkish and Russian troops in the region. Separately, Turkey's deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus told Reuters on Wednesday that Turkish military preparations in northwest Syria are "legitimate measures against a threat from Kurdish forces in the Afrin region, and Turkey will retaliate against any hostile move."
He added in an interview that "This is not a declaration of war. We are making preparations against potential threats" adding that "It's a legitimate measure so that we can protect our independence. We cannot remain silent against those sending missiles from Afrin."
Kurtulmus was responding to the head of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, who told Reuters that Turkish military deployments near Kurdish-held areas of northwestern Syria were a declaration of war which could trigger clashes within days.
"Their (YPG) primary goal is a threat to Turkey, and if Turkey sees a YPG movement in northern Syria that is a threat to it, it will retaliate in kind," Kurtulmus said. "This isn't a fantasy for us...it is an indispensible approach to protect Turkey's border security."
The problem stems from Ankara's consideration of the US-allied YPG as an extension of the outlawed Kurdish PKK group which has waged an insurgency in southeast Turkey since the 1980s. Turkey was angered by a U.S. decision to arm the YPG as it marched with it allies on Raqqa.
Some more details on the latest tactical positioning:
# The YPG forms a major part of the U.S.-backed campaign to capture Islamic State's stronghold of Raqqa. It also controls a pocket of territory in Afrin, about 200 km (125 miles) west of Raqqa. Tensions between Turkish forces and the YPG have been mounting in the Afrin region in recent weeks.
Turkey's military, which launched an incursion last August into part of northern Syria which lies between Afrin and a larger Kurdish-controlled area further east, has said that it has returned fire against members of YPG militia near Afrin several times in the last few weeks.
Adding to the absurdity of the situation, last month the Turkish defence ministry said that the Pentagon had sought to give assurances that Washington would retrieve weapons provided to the YPG after Islamic State fighters were defeated. Clearly this was a ludicrous assertion and Turkey slammed it as such:
"There has never been an incident where a group in the Middle East has been armed, and they returned the weapons," Kurtulmus said. The United States "have formed more than a terrorist organisation there, they formed a small-scale army."
It will hardly be the first time the US has formed....